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ORLANDO, Fla. – If you have walked the halls at AdventHealth Orlando on a Thursday, you have probably seen Woody, a 48-pound Basset Hound who brings smiles to everyone she meets.
Woody is 5 years old and is part of AdventHealth’s pet therapy program. Her owner, Mindy Machock, has a special connection to the hospital. It’s where her late husband received a double lung transplant after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.
“I saw the first therapy dog when my husband was in the hospital. We were having a bad day. We did not know if he was going to get the transplant,” Machock recalled. “I went to the lobby of the hospital and there was a woman with a therapy dog. The lady asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to pet my dog?’ I said ‘Yes’. When I touched the dog, it calmed me down and took me to a different place. I was able to quickly refocus.”
Since that experience, Mindy wanted to have a therapy dog.
Mindy got Woody at 8 weeks old and started to socialize her by taking her to parades, Lake Eola Park, and other public settings. Once Woody turned a year old, she was enrolled in training classes, and quickly became a certified therapy dog.
For the last four years, both have been volunteers at AdventHealth, bringing smiles to patients in a time of need. Machock retains an emotional connection to the hospital, and is grateful for the lifesaving care her husband received.
“I am always thankful for the additional 8 years we got with him,” she said.
To become part of AdventHealth’s pet therapy program, dog owners must register, train and become a member of an AdventHealth approved pet therapy program – Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Pet Partners or Intermountain Therapy Alliance – and complete the volunteer orientation and submit health records.
Interacting with animals can help the healing process.
“Pet therapy is known to help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and studies show it promotes healing, and brightens spirits,” said Erin Simmons, director of volunteer services at AdventHealth. “It also provides many benefits to our pet therapy volunteers. They can give back to the community, meet friendly people, and develop meaningful connections with our teams.”
Pet therapy doesn’t just benefit the patients, Machock said. Owners and pets get something from the program too.
“Doing this work and seeing other people smile and make a difference in their day, raises my spirits. Our spirits.”
For more information about the AdventHealth Pet Therapy program, visit AdventHealth Central Florida Volunteer Services | AdventHealth