Calgary therapy dog brings stress relief to hospital: ‘Everybody knows Tucker by name’

Click to play video: 'Therapy dog at hospitals provides pandemic stress relief'
Therapy dog at hospitals provides pandemic stress relief
WATCH: Therapy dog at hospitals provides pandemic stress relief – Jul 4, 2021

He’s all for the love and affection, but this seven-year-old English Yellow Labrador has also provided something pretty powerful at a Calgary hospital.

Tucker has been a therapy dog for more than four years at the Peter Lougheed Centre, helping patients get through some of their most difficult times.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Tucker’s owner, Larry Goertzen.

“The dog gets me in with the people and then we start talking.

“There’s so many interesting stories that people want to tell, and just need an ear to tell.”

During the peak of the pandemic the hospital had to press pause on the visits, but by popular demand it was one of the first programs brought back when it was safe to do so.

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When Larry and Tucker got back on the job — something was different.

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While they were still visiting patients, Tucker was also now a major stress release for front-line hospital workers in the emergency department who had dealt with months of continued stress.

Tucker stepped right in and provided some much-needed four-legged affection.

“It’s kind of like having a movie star walk in,” Dr. Eddy Lang, head of emergency medicine with Alberta Health Services, said with a beaming smile.

“To have that hectic environment broken up by a cute little dog coming through — it’s like a breath of fresh air.”

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Larry Goertzen and Tucker, his seven-year-old English Lab, visit patients and health-care workers at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, Alta. Leah Hennel, Alberta Health Service

John Paul Hermano works in volunteer resources at the hospital and calls the visits from Tucker a high point of his week.

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“It’s just a way for us to kind of escape, even if it’s just for the five minutes for us to get a pet in with Tucker,” Hermano said.

Canadian research from the University of Saskatchewan showed patients who spent 10 minutes with a visiting therapy dog “reported they felt more comfortable, happier and less distressed while waiting for emergency care in hospital.”

That’s exactly what Larry is hoping for: to provide a little relief, a smile and some conversation during a time where many of us could use a little Tucker TLC.

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