Local organization trains dogs to be medicine's best friend

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - At Baptist Hospital's rehabilitation facility, some of the physicians are furry.

Walker the German Shepard and Tank the Golden Retriever learned their bedside manner from Mid-South Therapy Dogs, a volunteer program that trains pet owners and their animals to bring joy to the injured and ill.

Trainer Mary Ehrhart said when animals enter, the energy in the room changes.

"I think there's one thing that everyone can agree on," Said Ehrhart, "it is for certain that not all medicine comes in a bottle."

The visits from the animals bring a smile to the patients who otherwise dread a painful therapy session.

Baptist's Lisa Mantaro said the animals are also incorporated into the rehabilitation process, encouraging patients to raise up out of their chairs or stretch an injured arm to offer a treat.

"It makes it a little more fun as well as they continue to work towards their goals," Mantaro said.

The dogs in the program come from regular dog owners.  If you think your dog has the skills and aptitude to complete the program, Mid-South Therapy Dogs will train you and your animal to volunteer.

The size, age, or breed of the dog does not matter as long as the dog has some basic obedience skills and the proper attitude.  Even donkeys and llamas are welcome.

"Every animal can contribute something," Ehrhart said.  "They're all furry physicians and they all come into the facilities with their own unique characteristics."

It takes about five months to get an owner and their animal trained.

If you think your pet could be medicine's best friend, click here to learn more about Mid-South Therapy Dogs.

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