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Therapy Dogs

Because of their unique ability to reach out and love unconditionally, therapy dogs can lift moods and relieve anxiety, fear and loneliness. Just a simple touch can go a long way in restoring health.

How It Works

Volunteer handlers bring their registered therapy dogs for visits to patient rooms, waiting rooms and rehabilitation sites at various Altru locations. Patient visits usually last 10 to 15 minutes. Patients are invited to pet the dog and ask the handler questions.

Therapy dog visits are not only beneficial to patients. They can help reduce stress and provide comfort to families and visitors.

Meet The Therapy Dog Team


Black Giant Schnauzer Brita is a Giant Schnauzer who loves to do therapy visits throughout Altru Health System. She frequently visits the cancer center, pediatric unit, waiting rooms, cardiac unit, ICU, surgery recovery, rehabilitation, the emergency room and many other departments. She's multi-lingual, and keeps expanding her American Sign Language skills. Patients and visitors who communicate through American Sign Language have greatly enjoyed interacting with her.


Black LabradorCheemo is a Labrador Retriever. His birthday is July 1st, which is also Canada Day. Although he is from Kentucky, his adopted family is from Canada. His name means “Hello, my friend!” In Inuktitut. Cheemo is a registered therapy dog (June 2019) with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Living up to his breed, he loves to fetch things, including the newspaper, slippers and any of his many toys, which he knows by name. When he’s not visiting or going for a walk, he loves to snuggle on the couch. He enjoys visiting at a variety of sites around the community, including Valley Senior Living, Maple View Memory Care, UND and the Grand Forks Public Schools.


Black and White dogCookie is a sheltie. She was born on February 22, 2018. Cookie was registered in June 2019 as a therapy dog through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Cookie has also earned the Star Puppy and Canine Good Citizen certifications through the American Kennel Club. She enjoys playing with kids and watching hockey and baseball. She also likes to participate in events at the Circle of Friends Humane Society and Petco. Her most recent activity is playing frisbee, where she enjoys getting lots of exercise jumping and catcher her disc out of midair. Cookie has previous experience visiting Valley Eldercare Center and Memory Care.


Golden Retriever DogJovi is a Golden Retriever and has been a registered therapy dog since 2015. She has visited the local nursing homes and memory care facilities. She began her career as an Altru therapy dog in 2016. She loves the therapy visits, and seems to know immediately where she is heading when she sees her therapy collar. Jovi has never met a person she doesn’t like and has brought a smile to many faces. Jovi is a Canadian conformation champion and is working on titles in obedience. She assists her handler at the Grand Forks Dog Training Club by demonstrating skills and behaviors for the dogs attending puppy kindergarten.


German ShepherdLacey is a German Shepherd. She was born on May 29, 2014. She is owned and handled by Louise Anvarinia. Lacey has been a registered therapy dog since she was 14 months old. She enjoys visiting with children and adults of all ages, in all types of settings. She has been visiting patients, visitors and staff at Altru Hospital and Rehab, since July 2016.

One of her favorite things to do while visiting patients is to play a game of "Find it". She hides her eyes while a visitor or staff member hides a toy of hers. When Lacey re-enters the area, she quickly sniffs the toy out from its hiding place, to everyone's amazement!

The German Shepherd Dog first originated in Germany in 1899. As part of the Herding Group. German Shepherds are working dogs developed originally for herding and guarding sheep. Because of their strength, intelligence and abilities in obedience training they are often employed in police and military roles around the world, as well as for search and rescue.

In her spare time she enjoys hanging out at Valley Eldercare Nursing Home where she visits new and old friends or just takes a nap along side one of her pals. Lacey is currently participating in Agility classes at the Grand Forks Dog Training Club. She has achieved her Canine Good Citizen certification, through the American Kennel Club. Her registered name is "Lady Bird Lacey of Linton".


English Cream Golden RetrieverOsso is an English Cream Golden Retriever. He is a Search and Recovery dog as well as a therapy dog. Osso’s “person” and handler, Laura Toth, knew she wanted to train a Search and Recovery dog and wanted to give him a name with special meaning. At the same time she was looking for a dog, she was getting her Italian citizenship and Osso in Italian means ‘bone’. By coincidence, in Spanish it means ‘bear’ and he very much looks like one. Laura is in the process of training Osso for certification as a Courtroom Anxiety Dog. Osso’s interests include swimming in stinky, stagnant puddles and ponds and going bonkers over squeaky tennis balls.


YorkieTaffy the “Blonde Ninja” is a Yorkie mix born in 2011. Her owner, Louise, bought her from her former owner who was abusing Taffy. Patience and love have turned Taffy’s world around. She was certified as a therapy dog at seven years of age. Taffy’s favorite spot is on someone’s lap or in Louise’s bike basket going for a spin!


English Doodle (English Cream Retriever and Poodle)Valentino is an English Doodle (English Cream Retriever and Poodle). He was born 10/9/16 and was registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs in December 2019. Valentino’s favorite things include car rides, naps on the couch and mud puddles. Valentino has a smile for everyone he meets and an extra tail wag for if you are a kid or kid at heart.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a patient or family member make a request for a pet therapy visit?

Request a pet therapy visit through your provider or the nursing staff in your department. Pending approval by your department, the request will be sent to the therapy dog team. The therapy dog team will make every effort to fill special requests for visits.

What is the difference between a service dog, a therapy dog, and a companion dog?

Service dogs are working dogs. They do not want to be touched because they have a job to do. Conversely, therapy dogs love to be stroked and snuggled. Companion dogs will assist and provide companionship to individuals.

Are the therapy dogs residents of Altru?

No. All dogs in the Altru therapy dog program are the personal pets of their volunteer handlers.

My dog is really nice. Can I bring him/her in to visit?
Certified therapy dogs are not your average family pet. They go through extensive training to become gentle-natured in all circumstances. Beyond therapy or service dogs, we do not allow outside pets.

I’m scared of dogs. What if I don’t want to be around a therapy dog?

Therapy dogs sense who does and doesn’t like them. They understand the human vibe, and know who to approach and who not to approach. Therapy dogs will only visit patient rooms per the patient’s consent. Additionally, therapy dogs are always with their handler.

I’m allergic to dogs. Will the therapy dog make me sick?

The dander of therapy dogs is well controlled. The risk is very minimal.

What about safety and infection control?

Altru’s therapy dogs are screened for appropriate behavior. They have been evaluated and trained to be therapy dogs. They are required to be clean and vaccinated.

How do we become a Therapy Dog Team at Altru?

All Altru therapy dog teams have been evaluated, and hold membership in a pet therapy organization, such as Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

Contact Volunteer Services at 701.780.5125 for more information.

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