Ruby Memorial Hospital uses therapy dog to brighten up patients’ stay at the hospital

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It can be hard to be in a hospital for extended periods, but Ruby Memorial Hospital has a four-legged furry friend to help overcome that difficulty.

Gus the therapy dog is an almost-two-year-old Old English Sheepdog that makes rounds through the hospital cheering patients up. Gus is one of 11 dogs the hospital uses, but the only one working full time.

One of the patients Gus stopped by to visit on Thursday was Yvonne Hines, who has been in the hospital for three months. Hines, a high school teacher, is a double amputee, in her legs, due to an accident that happened while she was out cycling with her husband. Hines said she had been waiting to receive surgery for 3 months, one was finally scheduled for Monday, but then a surgeon backed out, leaving her feeling down.

“In comes Gus after everything has been explained and I just feel a whole lot better, he just makes your day, I can’t explain it,” Hines said. “I never would have believed it but after three months in here– when I get to see Gus it’s been a really good day.”

Hines said she knows that a lot of people feel how she does about the joy Gus brings and she wasn’t wrong. Children, adults, patients and staff alike stop to admire Gus no matter where he goes in the hospital.

Hospital employees take a break to pet Gus

Callie Yoak, who has been in the hospital since Monday, said she feels happier when he walks in the room because she’s able to pet his very soft fur. Yoak said she didn’t know how much longer she would be amitted but that she hoped Gus comes back to visit her as much as possible.

“He just makes your day, I can’t explain it I have no reason but he’s the best dog ever,” Hines said. “When he comes in my room I forget about whatever’s ailing me at least until he leaves.”

Gus is managed by Maleah King, who is the program coordinator of behavioral health and wellness. Her office provides counseling and psychiatry services to all students at WVU Medicine campus. Gus is King’s personal dog and she said he had to go through several weeks of training to become certified a therapy dog.

Gus and Maleah

When her office started the program, she said she pitched the idea of bringing in therapy dogs to her boss but he laughed and said people would not come in to see a dog. However, after nearly a year on the job, King said she can see that everyone knows Gus and that it’s an awesome feeling to know that he is helping patients like Hines.

“When we first started visiting her she wouldn’t even look at us,” King said. “Now she’s sort of my adoptive mom like we see her just about every day. It’s nice to see the breakthroughs.”

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