Four-legged friends help St. Jude patients heal

MEMPHIS, TN - (WMC-TV) – Studies show interactions with animals reduce blood pressure, lower stress and release endorphins. And thanks to a volunteer program, young patients at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital are spending the dog days of summer with some much-loved and much-needed four-legged friends.

It's the sound of pure joy!

Lydia Disbro's sweet laughter echoes through the halls of St Jude Children's Research Hospital during Doggy Daze. It's a chance for patients to forget about being sick for awhile - and love on some four legged friends. Lydia's mom calls the doggy visit, and St. Jude, a blessing.

"Because of her appointments, this is only the second time she's been able to come and see the dogs," Lydia's mom, Carrie Disbro said. "She was so excited, she was bouncing around when she heard the announcement."

The Disbro's doggy visit couldn't have happened at a better time. The next few weeks will be tough, as Lydia battles leukemia.

"She's going to be going through a harsher round of chemo, and it takes two weeks for her to recover after that, and then we might get to go home for a little bit," Disbro said.

For one hour, every Tuesday in the Danny Thomas Lobby, children who get the all clear from their doctors play with and pet these dogs. The dogs have all been through obedience class, and were tested to make sure they can withstand tugs on their tails, loud noises, and the crush of children who want to cuddle.

"She knows it's her job when she puts on her vest she knows she's going to work," volunteer Debbie Richerdson said.

Volunteer handler, and St. Jude employee Debbie Richerdson says she and her dog Spooky Marie, just want to help.

"It's great to give these families a few minutes of diversion from what's going on here at the hospital. You can just tell in their face and their parents face. It's just great everyone loves to pet a dog. It makes their day."

Making a child's day and creating a normal life experience is something St. Jude Child Life Specialist Jessika Boles strives for. Boles believes petting these dogs can help children cope with their treatments and recover.

"They know, I might have 30 more weeks of chemo, but that's 30 more times that the dogs are going to be here, and I know that's something fun I'm going to get to do during the week, regardless of what else might be happening," Boles said.

Because what's happening to these children is a life struggle.

3-year-old Alyssa Babinbaux enjoys her Doggy visits.

"I've been having cancer since I was 8.  So this is my second relapse," Babinbaux said.

"I love animals and I think that it's really nice that they bring them for us," she said.

And dogs like Lily, Sandy and Spooky Marie seem to like it too.

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