Salida dog makes hospital stays a little easier

Posted By elaine on April 5, 2010

Gill and Gabriel2010 018

Gabriel and Gill Engles love to brighten patients' days at Salida hospital.

Few hospital visitors get the kind of greeting Gabriel does. The five-year-old Golden Retriever, and his owner Gill Engles, visit Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center patients and staff  in Salida each week as part of the Delta Society Pet Partners program.

  “It happens a lot that Gabriel will get such a greeting when we go into a patient’s room,” said Engles, “that an in-law or other visitor says to the patient, ‘Gee, I didn’t get that kind of greeting when I came in!’”  Engles and Gabriel began visiting the local hospital shortly after they moved to Salida a little over a ago.   The two have been registered Delta Society Pet Partners for four years. “When Gabriel was about 1½, I was living in Rhode Island and saw a special on CNN about Pet Partners,” recalled Engles. “I said to Gabriel, we’re going to do that.”

    The Delta Society is a national program that screens and trains volunteers and their pets to visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other facilities. Each year, over 1 million people benefit from the volunteer work of Delta Society Pet Partners.  To become registered as Pet Partners, Engles and Gabriel both had to pass physicals. Engles also underwent a criminal background check and had tuberculosis shot before the two were evaluated by a Delta Society representative.

    After Gabriel aced an interview at Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., the two began visiting cancer patients twice a week there. Over the years, they have visited thousands of patients.   When Engles and Gabriel visit HRRMC, many patients share stories about the dog they have at home, grew up with or had to put down.  “Everybody has a dog story,” said Engles.

    Other patients pass on their wisdom. Engles asked one woman, who was 103, what was the secret to long life? “She looked out the window and said, ‘Don’t never let nothin’ bother you.’” said Engles “When I went to leave, she told me, ‘Sonny, you take the dog with you outside, and you have fun with him.’”     Engles and Gabriel bring a little fun to the bedsides of many patients. But both take their work very seriously. The Delta Society has several levels of certification, and Engles traveled to Denver in December to have Gabriel recertified. After the evaluation, the head of the Humane Society came out to tell Engles, “We do 14 evaluations a day, seven days a week, and there has never been a dog that has gotten a perfect score—until Gabriel.”

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