By Dave Ongie
The folks at Mountain States Health Alliance have always gone out of their way to honor their volunteers.
So last Friday, the folks at Johnson City Medical Center and the Niswonger Children’s Hospital held a picnic for the 30 therapy dogs who provide such a valuable service to patients. Games, music, a photo booth, a swimming pool and plenty of donated doggie treats awaited the service animals who gathered with their handlers in a patch of grass in front of the children’s hospital.
This was the first such event for the therapy dogs who work at the facility, and MSHA director of volunteer services Lynis Hornsby said it was long overdo.
“We do annual celebrations for our people volunteers, so we thought it would be a good idea to do something for our pets,” she said.
The service animals go through a process to become trained and certified before they move on to working with patients. Hornsby said the animals provide a wide variety of services for patients as they undergo treatment and work toward recovery.
“They go to visit patients,” Hornsby said. “They are very helpful. Sometimes when patients won’t relate to people, they’ll relate to a pet. They can pet them; they can talk to them. It’s stress relieving and it’s a diversion.”