Therapy dog spreading cheer to local cancer patients


LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) – The holidays can be a happy time but also a tough time, especially for those dealing with cancer.

A therapy dog program is putting smiles on patients’ faces, despite their difficult diagnosis.

“I’m here for about six hours for three days, 18 days apart. I had four rounds of it and tomorrow’s the last day,” cancer patient Patricia Boyle said.

A cancer center isn’t usually considered a happy place.

“The first day I came here, I was worried. You don’t know what to expect, only what you heard, a lot of it not so good,” Boyle said.

“Some of them want to postpone their treatments until after the holidays,” said Lindsay Ebling, the manager of WellSpan Sechler Family Cancer Center.

A place of anxiety, the WellSpan Sechler Family Cancer Center in Lebanon is also a place for healing. Gus, a golden retriever, has been visiting cancer patients for two years, spreading smiles and calm along the way.

“He sort of feels his way around. He seems to know who needs him more so than others. He’ll just hang out with them. He’s very patient,” said Theresa Ruppenthal, a volunteer at the cancer center and Gus’s owner.

The dog therapy program began in 2017. It’s been so successful, it’s being introduced at Good Samaritan Hospital.

“I think it helps calm people down, a lot that they’re dealing with. He seems to bring a lot of comfort and joy to a lot of the patients,” Ruppenthal said.

Every Wednesday, Boyle knows who will greet her.

“How does he make me feel? Like I’m not even here, no treatment is going on,” said Boyle.

But Wednesday is her last day with the guy almost everyone at the cancer center says is a part of the family.

“Well, I sure am going to miss Gus, but I know where to find him. He’ll be here doing his job,” said Boyle.

There are five dogs at the WellSpan Sechler Family Cancer Center that are part of the program.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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