MUNSTER, Indiana - With a prayer and a blessing for a half-dozen dogs and their handlers, Franciscan Health Munster welcomed the pet therapy program to its hospital on February 15.
"Bless these therapy dogs and their handlers as they begin their ministry today for our patients and staff," said Rev. Francis S. Tebbe to pet therapy program participants and hospital staff during the blessing and introduction in the hospital's lobby.
Sister Marlene Shapley, vice president for mission integration, told participants, "You with your dogs, your animals that are bringing comfort to our patients, you're bringing little miracles to our patients every day. So on behalf of the administration and on behalf of the sisters, I thank you for your generosity and your willingness to share your animals with us."
Sean Leahy, administrative director of operations at Franciscan Health Munster, praised the pet therapy program, saying, "We're very excited to be embarking on this new journey. We truly hope it brings love, peace and enjoyment to those we're privileged to serve."
Julie Canady, administrative assistant in the Franciscan Alliance marketing department, began the program and participates with her therapy dogs Meiko and Frankie. "We get such pleasure out of visiting everyone – staff, patients and visitors – with our dogs," she said.
The pet therapy program is currently at Franciscan Health Crown Point and Michigan City. It has grown to include 29 dogs, including nine that will be visiting in Munster. Dogs must be certified by Therapy Dogs International or Alliance of Therapy Dogs to participate.
At Franciscan Health Munster, therapy dogs will visit patients from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays.