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'Doggie love' a joyful form of therapy

September 21, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- With her calm temperament and gentle nature, Rosie is a dog who gets along with just about everyone.

For that reason, the 6-year-old Shetland sheepdog is often requested by patients at Loyalton of Hagerstown and NMS Healthcare of Hagerstown, where she visits as a therapy dog for Hospice of Washington County.

Her owner, Cindy Campbell of Hagerstown, recognized that Rosie had the qualities to be a therapy dog. She took Rosie for training at Therapy Dogs International Inc. in Winchester, Va., and Rosie passed the test with ease.

Campbell and her boyfriend, Mark Adams, take Rosie to Broadmore Assisted Living in Hagerstown most Saturdays.

Adams, who has been trained as a Hospice volunteer, started taking Rosie on visits to Loyalton and NMS about three months ago. His flexible work schedule allows him to take her during the week and they usually visit each facility twice a month.

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Adams heard Hospice wanted to start a therapy dog program through a friend who works there.

A good candidate for the job is a dog that is friendly and outgoing toward people, as well as tolerant and nonaggressive toward other pets, according to the Therapy Dogs International Inc. Web site, www.tdi-dog.org.

The TDI site says therapy dog visits are a positive addition to the healing process. Patients have been shown to be happier and calmer, with a decrease in their blood pressure and stress levels during visits by a therapy dog.

Adams, 56, said that after Rosie visits with her regular patients, he'll take her to a common area or pop his head in rooms where the door is open to see who wants some "doggie love." He said just about everyone does.

The reward is seeing people's eyes light up when they see Rosie, Adams said. He might plan to visit four patients, but before they leave a facility, most likely they will have seen about 30 people.

"They get joy from such simple things. To me, it's just to bring a little joy in people's lives. It's very fulfilling," Adams said.

Adams, who grew up in Michigan City, Ind., spent most of his life in the South. He moved to Greencastle, Pa., seven years ago and lives in Hagerstown.

He said he limits the visits with Rosie to about 90 minutes because they can get stressful for her. Sometimes, the heat in the facilities causes her to pant. When that happens, it's time to leave.

During visits, Rosie is always on a leash and under Adams' control. In a group setting, she will do tricks, like sitting, rolling over and even "singing" "Happy Birthday." Some patients just want to pet her.

"To her, we're out visiting friends. She's having a good time," Adams said. "I think she provides a good service. I've been really happy about it."

For more information about volunteering with Hospice, call Volunteer Services Coordinator Lindsay Anderson at 301-791-6360.

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