Dogs help patients recover after surgery

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Recovering in the hospital can be a challenge. Many patients have family and friends come visit, but for some patients a little piece of home is missing.

A stay at the hospital can be a long time away from their pet, but a local hospital has a program that helps dog owners stay connected to their faithful friends while recovering.

Each day visitors come in and out of the Bristol Regional Medical Center.

On this day, a seven-year-old chocolate lab is coming in. His name is Moose and he's here to visit his owner.

A few days after knee replacement surgery News 5 and Fox Tri-Cities anchor Paul Johnson is getting a visit from his four-legged friend.

"When you're going through the paperwork for surgery, it said your dog could come in and I didn't think that was right," PJ told us Thursday. "I said really, your dog? It's a relatively new policy at the hospitals. I just think it's really neat."

Moose isn't the first dog here. In fact, any patient can have their dog come in for an hour-long visit.

"A lot of patients say their dogs are like their children, so to go four or five days without seeing your animal would be really hard," says Registered Nurse Sarah Harris.

There are a few rules that come with bringing your dog in to visit. They have to be up to date on shots, kept on a leash and recently bathed.

The patients and the nurses say they see a difference after dogs come down the halls. "I think it really lifts their mood, makes them much happier and gets them something to look forward to," adds Harris.

"I'm a divorced father so I live with my dog. It's good to know he can come to see me and that he's doing ok. I think it's great for all the pet lovers too," adds Harris.

PJ also updated on his recovery from surgery. "It was everything they said it would be. It's been a challenge. I'm making small gains," he said.

It may be a few weeks before you see PJ back on the news, but he's working to get his strength so he can recover at home full-time with Moose.

If you have a dog and want to visit patients in the hospital, your pet might make a good therapy dog.

Wellmont tells us they have a special training program. For more information call Becky Blevins at (423) 844-2831.

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