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The Unconventional Medical Team: Meet R.J. and Finnegan, the Hospital’s Therapy Dogs

The Unconventional Medical Team: Meet R.J. and Finnegan, the Hospital’s Therapy Dogs

by | Jun 23, 2023

R.J. and Finnegan, two trained volunteer therapy dogs, have brought much joy and comfort to staff and patients of HCA Florida Oak Hill Hospital recently. Possessing unique qualities such as their own badges and a jovial approach, these furry friends have certainly made a positive mark at the facility. Their enthusiastic presence has been noticed, and clearly felt as patients cannot help but interact and share home stories. Martha Sugg, president of the Oak Hill Hospital Volunteer Association Inc., expresses immense pride in the idea of pet therapy as a whole.

R.J. and Finnegan embody the ideal bedside manner that many medical residents strive for, but as dogs, they are unable to pursue a medical career. However, their unique qualities of being therapy dogs and having their own volunteer badges with their name and photo makes them a valuable addition to any hospital. R.J., a Chesapeake Bay Retriever with a stunning golden coat, is known to be particularly friendly, cheerfully greeting patients with an eager paw shake.

Finnegan is a “doodle mutt” with a friendly mien and a furry coat and has been a hospital volunteer for about two months. Recently the duo was seen at HCA Florida Oak Hill Hospital, bringing joy and cheer to staff and patients alike, as they could not enter patient rooms due to the presence of a reporter.

Everyone was drawn to Finnegan’s cheerful presence and couldn’t help but pet him and talk about their own dogs at home or from years ago.

Martha Sugg, president of the Oak Hill Hospital Volunteer Association Inc., expressed her immense pride in the hospital’s implementation of pet therapy. “We are proud to offer more choices for trained dogs to our patients, as the pet therapy industry is really taking off.” In fact, the facility already has a number of handlers and dogs on board, and they are always busy bringing joy and comfort to patients!

The dogs’ wagging tails make everyone smile, and even those who are initially hesitant about interacting with them can be won over by the handlers and their tricks. R.J., a certified therapy dog, and his handler have received certification for their work, ensuring patients of the highest quality service.

They have helped a little boy overcome his fear of dogs after he was bitten by a pit bull, and they continue to provide comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes, police departments, 911 operators, and more. With their impressive team of over 30 certified therapy dogs, their work is recognized and appreciated throughout the community.

Sheila Sanders, Chief Nursing Officer at Oak Hill, notes that patients who do not interact with anything else will suddenly start petting a dog or show signs of joy. It is an uplifting experience to have the dogs come in and bring a smile to people’s faces.

Nurse Manager Tiffany Leonard agrees, adding that it is scientifically proven that petting animals releases positive endorphins and relieves the stress of a long workday.

Liubi Perez, the hospital’s Lead Patient Care Technician, appreciates the dogs’ visits as it helps patients relax and feel like they are in a familiar place. After making their rounds on several floors, it is time to take the dogs home. To ensure cleanliness, Erhardt gives Finnnegan a shower before visiting the hospital. Everyone appreciates the work these dogs do, especially after the hardships staff members have experienced in recent years.

Liubi Perez believes that therapy dogs make excellent hospital volunteers, and it is the perfect way to help lift everyone’s morale.

It is clear that R.J. and Finnegan have profoundly impacted the atmosphere at HCA Florida Oak Hill Hospital and centers like it across the country, as more are looking to the benefits of pet therapy, and these two charming canine ambassadors can set a great example. From their warm welcomes to their furry coats, the pawshake patrol makes the hospital stay an easier one. It’s clear that having cheerful pup-therapy on board brings comfort to many, and this volunteer program helps give patients in need, a much-needed smile.

Read More About R.J. and Finnegan

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