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
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 doesn't live in Grand Forks, otherwise she'd love to visit nearly every day. 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.
Jack is a Goldendoodle who loves everyone and especially loves children. Jack has been a therapy dog since 2014. He started his therapy work at Altru in 2014 and since has been very busy. He attends many college and school events. He also is a regular at some of the local nursing homes. Jack always has a smile for those he meets and a little extra wag in that tail if you’re a child or teenager!
Jovi 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.
KC is a Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) and a registered therapy dog through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, one of the national therapy dog registries. He brings joy and comfort to various areas of Altru Hospital whether it is seeing patients, visitors or the staff. KC has been a therapy dog since 2008. In the summer, he loves going to the lake and riding on the pontoon and golf cart.
Lacey 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".
Mya is a golden retriever and a registered therapy dog through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, one of the national therapy dog registries. She visits Altru locations weekly, bringing joy and smiles to those she meets. Mya loves children and elders alike. She spends time with adolescents in group therapy as well as visiting patients in their rooms. She lifts the moods of staff and visitors, as she walks through the halls, waiting rooms and nurse’s stations. Mya is a good listener, giving much love and attention. Mya is also featured in a pet therapy book written by her handler, Nancy, titled, "Through Mya's Eyes: My Life as a Therapy Dog."
Po Panda is a Great Pyrenees and St. Bernard mix born on August 21, 2016. Po is a registered therapy dog through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Po loves spending the day with patients or hanging out with his dad on computer repair service calls. Po also likes going shopping. His favorite thing is to be petted by anyone, especially kids or sitting on his mom’s lap (he doesn’t realize his size).
Rose was born at Moonshine Labs near Lawton, ND, on January 25, 2010. People often say that she seems small for a Labrador but she is in fact a purebred. Her AKC registered name is MelanieandBob’s Dakota Prairie Rose. Rose loves hunting and retrieves both waterfowl and upland birds. She also enjoys playing ball in the backyard, watching birds, chewing her toys, and laying on the couch to watch TV (with the hope of being a lapdog). Rose has been a therapy dog since 2012, when she also earned her Canine Good Citizen certification. She regularly visits at Altru and Valley Eldercare. She also takes part in events at UND for both staff and students, has participated in community events like Spin for Kids and Sunshine Fest, and even worked one-on-one with someone to help them overcome their fear of dogs.
Sadie is a Great Dane, born August 18, 2013. She has been a therapy dog since July of 2017. Early on, Sadie’s family noticed her calm demeanor, and how much she enjoys meeting new people, especially children. She seems to know when a child isn't sure of her due to her size, and she will happily lie down to get her belly scratched.
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.