The dogs are back, to the delight of Central Texas hospital patients and staff

Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 2:25 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Man’s best friend is once again bringing joy and comfort to patients at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center in Waco after a program that places the specially trained pups and their volunteer handlers in hospitals was suspended for 18 months because of COVID-19.

The Pups Used Professionally or PUP Therapy Program was started in 2000, and for more than two decades volunteers have taken dogs to hospitals to comfort thousands of patients.

The visits here stopped when COVID-19 hit, but restrictions have been lifted and volunteers and their dogs are back.

“The PUP program at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest is so important for so many reasons,” said volunteer Marti Koch.

“First of all, it gives unconditional joy and love and smiles to all the patients, as well as the staff, the nurses and doctors. There is just something so soothing about petting a dog.”

The program currently has five handlers and six dogs including a golden retriever, a Lab, a labradoodle, a Goldendoodle and two dachshunds.

The dogs are selected for the therapy program after passing an extensive obedience training course.

Koch says the benefits are undeniable.

“The reactions that we receive are various, always smiles, sometimes tears of joy, many stories about their own pets at home,” she said.

“It just seems to break down the barriers and allows us to visit with all of the patients.”

Ascension Providence Hospital has also welcomed therapy dogs back to work their magic with patients.

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