Therapy dog provides comfort to patients at Nashville hospitals

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Among the many reasons to live in Nashville is the opportunity to become a volunteer.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has thousands of human volunteers of all ages and even 30 animal assisted therapy teams.

Andy Garmezy and his two-and-a-half-year-old Golden Retriever are among the volunteers at the hospital. Cooper underwent intense training to become a certified therapy dog.

Patients at the hospital look forward to Cooper’s visits.

“It’s Cooper Day and everyone just automatically gets happier,” nurse Janell Penrose said.

(Photo: WKRN)

Penrose is the charge nurse in the C-pod at Vanderbilt. The nurses’ station is even named for him.

“We’re the chemotherapy infusion clinic here, so our patients are going through a lot physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and Cooper just brightens things and helps things through,” she explained.

Janice Lloyd comes to the clinic once a month.

“As soon as we could see you down the hall, made me smile. He’s a sweet dog. He reminds me of my grandchildren and their dogs,” she said.

Animal assisted therapy has been around for centuries. Cooper’s owner told News 2 he knew he had a special dog from the beginning.

“He was just a lover and compassionate. [His] dad is a hunting champ, [his] mom a show champion, so he has good blood lines,” Garmezy said.

Nurse Penrose added, “He has an innate intuition to know who those certain people are that need an extra little love and that seems to be where he goes.”

(Photo: WKRN)

Patient George Rawlings said he enjoys seeing Cooper at the clinic.

“He acts like he knows what his job is,” Rawlings said. “It’s good to pet an animal, to see an animal when you are getting treatment.”

Cooper likes the clinic setting because he sees familiar faces each visit and his owner likes the chance to give something special to a community that’s given so much to him.

“Nashville has been great for the wife and I and our three kids, which were all born at Vanderbilt, and we have great healthcare in this city. If we can do out little bit to make it better, let’s give it a whirl,” Garmezy said.

Garmezy, who worked as a feature reporter at News 2 in the late 70s, now owns an ad agency. He and Cooper make rounds at five hospitals here in Nashville.

Click here for more of Anne Holt’s Tennessee stories.