PLATTSBURGH — Shoshi Satloff and her black lab, Bailey, work as a team to bring a little sunshine to patients at CVPH Medical Center.
Actually, it's Bailey who has been grabbing most of the patients' attention.
The 4-year-old lab is trained in pet therapy and shares her big, brown eyes and wagging tail with any patient who'd like to spend time with her.
"She's here to provide comfort and joy," Satloff said as she and Bailey took a break from their duties recently.
Satloff is a certified pet-therapy trainer who volunteers her time as part of a blossoming CVPH Pet Therapy Program. She and Bailey visit the hospital weekly to spread the positive feelings that pet-therapy dogs seem to do naturally.
"Quite often, patients will have pets at home that they are missing," Satloff said. "They're very glad to spend a little time with a therapy dog.
"It's always so rewarding to see their expressions when Bailey enters the room."
Satloff remembers one patient she recently met, a "burly man," as she described him, who broke into tears as he gently petted his canine visitor.
"'I just miss my dog so much,'" the patient told Satloff as he thanked her for allowing him to spend a few minutes with Bailey.
"It's heart-warming," she said of her experience as a pet-therapy volunteer. "It's great when you see not only the patients, but the staff and the doctors all taking an interest when we come into their area."
The pet-therapy program at CVPH began more than a year ago as a pilot study in the hospital's oncology wing, R-5.
With overwhelming success, the program then expanded to include patient floors on R-6 and R-7 and now includes other areas, such as the surgical waiting room and the main lobby, where dogs and their owners can mingle with any visitors who may need a little comforting.
"We've had to go very slowly," said Cindie Gardner, vice president of patient services at CVPH. "We didn't have enough handlers to do all three units and had to wait to expand the program until we recruited more volunteers."