ELWOOD — When Judd Armes walks into St. Vincent Mercy Hospital, everyone wants to spend time with him.
While many humans light up the hospital, they just don’t seem to have quite the same effect Judd has, but it is most likely in part because he is a 3-year-old golden retriever who is also a therapy dog.
Judd and Shari Wallace, the therapy dog’s handler, visit St. Vincent Mercy once a month to spend time with staff and patients. Judd seems to treat everyone differently as he senses their pain, Wallace said, but he primarily leans up against people and lets them stroke him, serving as a calming force.
“We don’t always know what we are getting into,” Wallace said. “It’s really neat to see him work the room as we call it. Every single person in here has a different need.”
Therapy dogs are dogs that are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices and to people with mental disorders, such as anxiety disorder or autism. Judd had to go through a year of training before he could be certified as a grief and therapy dog through the American Kennel Club.
Therapy dogs generally have less training than service dogs, but they are able to provide therapy to anyone and be comfortable in just about any environment. Some people have emotional support dogs, but they are generally just there to provide support to their owner.
Sarah Willis, a clinical nurse educator for St. Vincent Mercy and St. Vincent Randolph, said she got the idea to find a therapy dog to serve at the Elwood hospital after hearing a man talking about the benefits of therapy dogs in hospice care. She said although the program is only three months old, Judd has had a great effect on not only the patients at the hospital but the staff as well.
“One manager said some of the staff request to…