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Therapy dog brings healing to patients and staff

Posted on May. 16, 2014 ( comments)
therapy dog
It’s Wednesday night, and Harli has been freshly bathed, her teeth are brushed and she’s excited because she knows she has a very important job to do the next day. 

Harli is a therapy dog and she visits inpatient and outpatient areas with her owner, Diana Doolittle, at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital every Thursday.

Over the past seven years, Harli might be one of the most popular girls at the hospital. A typical visit with Harli and Diana means stopping nearly every couple minutes to let Harli do what she does best: Wag her tail and lift the spirits of patients, families, MultiCare employees and anyone else who enjoys a beautiful, affectionate golden retriever.

Diana, a former nurse at MultiCare, knew she wanted to have a therapy dog, and Harli was picked as a puppy from a golden retriever breeder. Diana said she knew Harli was perfect when she saw her calm demeanor and fondness for being cuddled. And Harli proved to be a natural in this role. During her two-hour visits to the hospital, patients and families perk up at the chance to visit with Harli, shake her paw and pet her broad head. 

"Visits with Harli are a relief to the patients and a distraction from their pain," Diana said. "Sometimes the parents need the distraction the most. Often patients and families have dogs at home that they are missing and Harli serves as a stand-in for their family pet." 

Some of Harli’s biggest fans are patients who, at first, were tentative around her, and by the end of the visit, Harli is lying across the bed in a complete self-described love fest.

It’s evident that the joy Harli brings to the floor fills the air with smiles, even from the sickest patients. 

As they make their way down the halls, nurses and staff are happily greeted one-by-one. As the nurses crouch down on the floor with Harli, one said, "I think Harli does more good for us than the patients!"

Diana’s passion for Harli and providing care for the patients is evident with each interaction. Diana carries with her a couple books she wrote about Harli’s adventures, including Harli’s own health scare. 

"When children are scared, it helps to know that Harli had cancer, went through treatment and is healthy again," Diana said. "It’s a story they can relate to with their illness and they can see that it had a positive outcome."

At the end of each visit, Harli bows to say goodbye and holds up a paw to wave. Diana hands patients a card with Harli’s name and picture on it to keep as a memento. 

After a couple hours, Harli and Diana’s work for the day is done, but they always look forward to the next week and meeting new friends.
Posted in: General Vitals
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