ST. LOUIS – Therapy dogs sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic return to work in the St. Louis area. Dogs like Finn have returned to the Siteman Cancer Center.

“Just touching it and feeling it was just so comfortable,” said Sandy Wattler of Fenton. She received chemotherapy for stage 4 breast cancer to the bone.

“You are relaxed, I am relaxed; it relaxes me and it’s just wonderful to have him back, ”said Wattler.

Finn is back and shares his love with those who need it most.

John Hamblin of South St. Louis is waiting for bladder cancer chemotherapy.

“It was nice. It was nice to stroke him. It helped alleviate some of my fears,” he said.

Volunteer Donna Steinhoff said Finn comes to Siteman once a week.

“(Finn) visits to patients who are either undergoing treatment infusions or their carers and friends who are here,” Steinhoff said.

Finn is a 5 year old English Golden Retriever; they are usually white in color. He trained with Duo Dogs Incorporated for about a year and a half.

“So, it’s really about the temperament, as you saw with Finn, he’s incredibly relaxed, laid-back and that’s really what we’re looking for. Race makes no difference to us; we have no breed restrictions, ”said Stacy Maly-Rodgers, Duo Dogs Incorporated.

Finn encourages patients. Her blood pressure and breathing go down when he walks in. Maly-Rodgers said therapy dogs can also have an impact on the physical condition of cancer patients.

“So when Finn comes in and plays with a child, the child forgets what is happening. We’ve been able to reduce the amount of pain medication the child may need after surgery by using visits from the touch team, ”she said. “It is wonderful.”

Therapy dogs not only bring comfort to patients in hospitals, they also put a smile on the faces of the staff in these hospitals.

“And I think we are the first team to come back after we were allowed to and the sisters in the hall cheered,” said Steinhoff. “They were all so happy to see the dogs again.”

Duo Dogs Incorporated Therapy Dogs are busy each week and visit approximately 150 locations throughout the St. Louis area, including hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, for free.

“Nobody wants to go to a hospital. Nobody wants to go through these things they go through. Finn is helping to make it a little easier and a little better, ”said Maly-Rodgers.

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