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Therapy Dogs and Handlers Honored at Freeman Health System - KOAM TV 7

Therapy Dogs and Handlers Honored at Freeman Health System

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Joplin, MO -

Today is National Therapy Animal Day, a special day for some dog handlers at Freeman Health System.

There are a few workers at Freeman Hospital who have a unique walk and expressive appearance.

"I would prefer to be at home!  But...they're taking very good care of me," says Katie Hill.

Hill says she's talking about the doctors and nurses, and 13 therapy dogs at Freeman.  Eight of them are rescue animals.

Hill says, "If you're down, because you're not at home..."

Gabrielle is one of those rescues.

"They sense things with people that some people don't understand," says Hill.

Chances are some of these dogs know all about the depressing, sick times in life.

"Whatever you say to them, they understand," says Hill.

"People who don't want to eat, after they've been happy and have visited the dogs, they actually want to eat at the end of the day," says Savannah Hoagland, Gabrielle's handler.

Nationally accredited training goes into Freeman's therapy dog program.

"When it comes to hospitals, we have to have each other's back," says Hoagland.  "If they don't feel like we have their back then we're not a good team."

The dogs look at you.

"They overall just want to make you happy," says Hoagland.

Sometimes they stare, maybe because they know something's up.

"These dogs will pinpoint out of a group of people one person who maybe their mom or grandma has been in the ICU," says Hoagland.

Technology at Freeman Hospital has changed over time to make some recoveries quicker.  But the reason why these animals have been allowed here for the past 20 years...

"They love you and they care for you, just like a kid would," says Hill.

Hoagland says, "I think the therapy dogs for Freeman are like little butterflies that float through here.  That's why they catch so much attention, is because they're unique.  They make everyone feel better and we try to color them up and everything.  We guide them, but we let them float through the hospital!"

Doctors and nurses also say having the therapy dogs around eases their stress and brightens their days.

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