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Nic the dog cheers up patients in Nashville hospital

Nic, the 3-year-old goldendoodle, and other therapy dogs visit the hospital at least once a week to boost patient and staff morale.
Credit: AP
Lori Holtfreter and Nic, her three-year-old therapy dog, visit patient Gene Meyers at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Midtown in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (Andrew Nelles /The Tennessean via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The squeals, claps and cheers exploded the second Nic walked into the nurses station.

“Is he here? Nic’s here? Hey, Nic’s here!”

Several more nurses, smiling, with hands clasped together, stream in from around the labor and delivery floor at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Midtown.

He’s swarmed as he rushes from nurse to nurse, matching their frenetic energy while searching for snacks and scratches.

Nic, the three 3-year-old goldendoodle, is a rock star.

After a minute, nurse Amy Smith, typing at her desk, looked down: “Nic, do you want to chart with me?”

Nic immediately flopped his two front paws on the desk and looked on while the other nurses squealed again.

“That’s so cute!” one shouted.

Yes indeed. It really really was.

At least once a week, Nic or one of his fellow volunteer therapy dogs visit the hospital, purportedly to bring joy to healing patients.

Credit: AP
Nic, a three-year-old therapy dog, visits R.N. Amy Smith at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Midtown in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (Andrew Nelles /The Tennessean via AP)

But most doctors, nurses and techs love the pups, too.

“We have been focusing on our pet therapy teams visiting with staff during 2022,” said Jan Brown, the hospital’s volunteer services coordinator. “Leadership came to me and asked if we could make that happen to boost morale and help relieve stress.”

Medical tech Diamond Hodges, 27, agrees.

“We need you on this floor every day!” Hodges told Nic as she scratched him behind the ears on the surgery floor.

Nic and the other therapy dogs (and their volunteer handlers, of course) still visit patients.

Nic in fact leapt right into the hospital bed with heart patient Gene Meyers, 83, from Smyrna. And Meyers loved it: “I’ve had dogs all my life,” Meyers said while patting Nic’s furry backside. “This is great.”

So, quick question: Would your dog be really great at this? Think you’d love to have your pooch visit patients and staff?

If so, there are organizations that can certify your pet to become a therapy dog. Two of them are Pet Partners and Therapy Dogs International.

You also can check with Saint Thomas hospital volunteer coordinators Jan Brown and Patrick Houseman on how to volunteer.

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