Dogs bring joy to patients and staff at WVU Princeton Community Hospital


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Dogs took over WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital Tuesday for a "Pet Therapy Day," as one of several events for nurses week.

This is the first time the hospital has done a Pet Therapy Day, according to Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer Tim Anderson.

More than five dogs roamed the facility (on leashes) Tuesday visiting whoever wanted to pet them and provide emotional support to patients and nurses.

"We did this to show appreciation again for all that nurses do on a daily basis. Pet therapy has shown to decrease anxiety, decrease depression and definitely from nurses seeing lot of things that we see this helps uplifts their spirits and definitely taking time out to think about something else," Anderson said. "Hopefully they'll be able to see him on a regular basis. The next step is to see patients and families to uplift their spirits. To come a couple times a week for a couple hours and we would have a process where we would ask the patients if they would like a pet therapy visit and we make sure that happens."

According to Anderson, the plan is to have daily dogs for the patients and nurses, but the committee is still in the process of finding those resources.

Luckily Pastor Sheri Kernick is eager to have Chip the Chiweenie — a certified emotional support dog — visit the hospital on a regular basis when the program comes to life.

"It is so uplifting and it brought lots of joy to people. Everyone was smiling," Kernick said. "Best part, he behaves and he seems to sense people, like, he'll go into a room and if they're in a wheelchair he'll sit beside them and let them pet him and if people want him on a bed he lays there. He doesn't fuss."

Chip visited 12 nursing stations across the hospital and received support from staff members, according to Kernick.

"I know we visited more than 12 nursing stations, we had 12 thank you cards and little jars of candies for their station and I ran out by the time I got to the ICU," Kernick said. "I think they (nurses) felt appreciated. They seem to think dogs should come in on a regular basis."

A lot of the nurses are counting on the program to become a reality, including Nurse Sarah McMaham. When a patient of McMaham's was in serious conditions, Chip was there to support the patient.

"It was wonderful. She (the patient) was actually getting transferred out because she had a serious condition so we sent her to Charleston. She was really upset, she hadn't been able to see her Yorkie and it just so happened today we had the dogs here. It made her day. That's the best thing to see her happy when she was already so scared that that dog could come in and it make her feel better. It was wonderful," McMaham said. "I can't describe the feeling you have when you have a patient who's been sick, she's scared and then we bring in this dog and it just turns her whole world different. I wish we had this every day. I have patients who would benefit from this. There's so many bad things that happen, and this just brings a little bit of joy to somebody who might not have seen their family today. It's the best thing ever."

Director of Surgical Services Missy May brought her dogs to the event to give joy to patients.

"Dogs provide therapy for patients and everybody else. I think the love, the attention they can bring to patients, they bring smiles on their face. We let them touch a patient or patient touch them and she (her dog) was so happy and she loved them, and that's what this day is about," May said. "The nurses are loving it. They are saying they wish they could have pet therapy every day. I think they bring so much joy and love to people but this is about the patients today."

May believes the program will make a comeback soon due to the positive impact pet therapy had on patients and nurses.

— Contact Tara Wyatt at