Therapy dogs help patients heal at Mercy Medical Center

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Several studies have shown that pets can unleash a certain type of healing power.

That's why Mercy Medical Center is using therapy dogs to help bring comfort and happiness to a number of patients.

These dogs have to get certified to be therapy dogs and they even wear a special badge to show that they are volunteers.

The other day we had the chance to meet one dog who’s making a difference in the lives of patients here at Mercy.

When these doors open patients usually expect to see doctors or nurses walk inside.

But on Wednesdays, patients are greeted by a very special four-legged volunteer.

Sophie is an eight-year-old therapy dog and she's been visiting patients at Mercy Medical Center for the last four years.

Her handler, Roy Gaddis has trained Sophie since she was a puppy.

Therapy dogs like Sophie are trained to stay calm, even in stressful situations.

“They will do a lot of yelling around her, pulling her ears, rough petting, dropping things next to her and it's mostly just checking her reaction,” says Gaddis.

And these dogs have to get certified every two years to make sure they are still well-trained and have a good temperament to be around people.

Unlike a service dog, they are trained to be social so they can visit places like hospitals, nursing homes, and schools to help provide emotional support to adults and kids.

“You walk in and instantly they have a smile when they see the dog, the dog gets up and she'll lay down beside them if they want and you know lay her head down and they'll pet her and you can see their reaction,” says Gaddis.

Gaddis says patients will often forget about what ever going on in their life, what's happening to them at that time at that time and they start to relax.

And patients like Jen Sacora agree.

“It's very helpful, in fact I miss sleeping with my dog so it's nice to see one,” she says.

Gaddis says it's those smiles and the effect Sophie has on others that keeps him coming back to the hospital every week.

And Mercy says they have about 12 therapy dogs volunteering to cheer up patient and they've offered a pet therapy program for the last ten years.

Corridor Therapy Dogs is an organization in Cedar Rapids that helps train therapy dogs. For more information you can click HERE