• Cobleskill Regional Hospital’s Therapy Dogs Visitation Program Delights Patients

    Cobleskill Regional Hospital

    October 5, 2018

    Cobleskill Regional Hospital (CRH), part of the Bassett Healthcare Network, wants to provide a proverbial scratch behind the ears and a pat on the head to the five therapy dogs and a thank you to four therapy animal handlers in the hospital’s Therapy Dogs Visitation Program.

    “Our therapy animal program exists to take stress and burdens away from our patients,” said Marie Dropkin, chaplain at CRH. “Petting the dogs brings back memories of their childhood, pets they have had, or may still have at home and are missing.”

    Heather Johnson, TDI therapy animal handler, said, “When the patients hold the dogs and interact with them, I can tell they are experiencing joy. It’s a wonderful way we can brighten our patients’ stay.”

    Therapy animal dogs must be certified through a rigorous training process with an organization like Therapy Dogs International (TDI). TDI is a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals and wherever else therapy dogs are needed.

    “I absolutely love volunteering,” said Heather Johnson, TDI therapy animal handler. “It’s so rewarding to see patients’ eyes light up whenever I come into the room with my poodles Sampson and Delilah.”

    Johnson visits with her two poodles; Betty Lou Adamovich visits with her golden retriever, Nika; Tara Keyser visits with her Doberman pinscher, Elle; and Suzanne Vortkamp visits with her German shepherd, Chester.

    Marie Dropkin coordinates the 20 volunteers who have patient contact: pastoral care visitors, “friendly” visitors as well as the therapy animal visits.  Margaret Walker, physical therapy aide, accompanies the handlers and their dogs. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at CRH, visit Bassett.org/CRH or call 518-254-3482.