Saint Francis Hospital brings in ‘extra paws’ for patients

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HARTFORD -- Spending time in a hospital is never easy, and many patients have to endure the sadness that may come with it, which is why Saint Francis Hospital is bringing in "extra paws."

Due to an increase in requests for pet visits from nurses and patients, Saint Francis has expanded it's pet therapy program.

Roaming the halls of the hospital is certified pet therapy team Reggie and Debbie Collier. As a therapy dog, Reggie gives patients a dose of the best medicine--an instant smile--especially when they need it most.

“Yesterday was a very highly emotional stressful day, I think I was at wits ends,” patient Christine Bosworth said. “It makes me feel comforting, you know, not so lonely and by myself.”

Reggie rescued Christine from sadness, and if dogs could talk, he’d tell the same tale. Reggie is a street dog from Puerto Rico. He was rescued by the non-profit Save a Sato.

From the moment Collier saw Reggie, she knew the popular saying to be true: a dog is a man's and woman’s best friend.

It’s a friendship Collier, the social worker in the Emergency Department, enjoys sharing with others. She spends her days off the clock bringing Reggie to see patients.

“It lowers patients blood pressure, it distracts them from their illness,” Collier said. “I've had people say to me, 'oh it's wonderful, I forgot I was in the hospital.'"

Collier said the dogs are also known to relieve stress even for hospital staff.

The goal is to make an impact on others, bring patients comfort, relaxation and distraction from what ails them, and to make everyone smile.

“When something lightens your heart like that, it not only makes a difference in your day but it gives you hope,” Collier said.

Collier and Reggie are trained by Allan’s Angels through Bolton Veterinary Hospital. The pair had to be accepted into the program to become a certified therapy team. In order to do so, they were required to meet strict criteria including passing a certification test.

The team also visits schools, children’s clinics and other organizations.