Dog has his (graduation) day

Graduate Bernie

Tri-State K9 Response Team and Lourdes Health System have partnered to provide Lourdes patients with ongoing pet therapy services at Lourdes campuses in Camden, Cherry Hill and Willingboro.

As part of the formal relationship, 15 teams—consisting of a dog and his or her handler—recently underwent the health system’s orientation for volunteers at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. “Graduation” was then held for the new Lourdes’ human and canine volunteers.


Commencement included photos and “dog-plomas,” with “Pup and Circumstance” playing over the sound system. Volunteer teams then visited patients and toured hospital units.

“We are pleased to have Tri-State pet therapy teams visit on a regular basis,” said Lisa McGarr, director of Volunteer Services at Lourdes. “Whenever we’ve had a pet therapy dog visit, they become instant rock stars. They positively change the atmosphere for patients, families, staff and volunteers. It’s therapy for everyone.”

Tri-State K9 Response Team has served patients at the Mental Health Unit at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County for the past two years. Lourdes clinicians noted the impact that the service dogs had on patients — relieving stress and anxiety, creating feelings of joy, and providing a comforting, calming presence, and expanded the service to serve more patients.

Kate Rubenstone, volunteer team member at Tri-State, says team members see a strong response when they provide therapy services at veterans’ homes, homeless shelters, and libraries. “Our certified dogs provide quiet, yet powerful emotional support. It’s an interactive experience that helps people feel less isolated.”

This is the first formal pet therapy agreement for Lourdes.