MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
Amid patients all over the world deadlocked in battles with various ailments from cancer to cholera, it is understandable spirits within hospitals are not always high.
With this in mind, one woman and her K9 companions are on a mission to maintain morale in the 366th Medical Group.
"My dogs are registered pet therapy dogs," said Linda Bretz, Airman and Family Readiness Center community readiness consultant. "I will take them around the hospital and ask the patients if they would like to visit with a therapy dog. Most people do and then we walk up to the bed and the dog will usually lay his head on the edge so the patient can pet him."
Many can attest to the very real therapeutic aspects of simply spending a few quality minutes with "man's best friend."
In fact, according to www.helpguide.org, "Pets can ease loneliness, reduce stress, promote social interaction, encourage exercise and playfulness, and provide us with unconditional love and affection. One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfill the basic human need to touch. Even hardened criminals in prison have shown long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with pets, many of them experiencing mutual affection for the first time."
Leaders within the MDG have seen first-hand the positive effects Bretz's dogs have on not only the patients but staff as well.
"The patients and staff have credited the dogs with improving their moods and motivating them to recover faster," said Maj. Glenda Whitfield, 366th Medical Group volunteer program liaison. "This kind of therapy is very effective. The dogs give patients something to take their minds off the enormity of their problems."
Bretz's two therapy dogs, Rose and Ben, are Leonbergers, a large breed of dog commonly weighing up to 170 pounds. Notorious for their intelligence and patience, the Leonberger is highly suitable for the training required of a therapy dog.
"They have to be good with obedience training," said Bretz. "You don't want a dog jumping on patients or taking food from a child's hand, and usually this breed is very gentle and loves people, so they work well as pet therapy dogs."
Visiting once a week on her lunch hour, Bretz's dedication to serving doesn't go unrecognized by MDG leadership.
"We are extremely appreciative of our pet therapy volunteer team," exclaimed Whitfield. "Thank you for all that you do for our military community!"
For Bretz, simply seeing so many delighted reactions toward her beloved companions makes it all worthwhile.
"It really raises their spirits," she said. "Sometimes I can see a lot of pain on the patient's faces but when that dog walks into the room, their eyes light up, they smile and for that moment, it brings them peace and happiness. They forget about their pain and just concentrate on the dog."