“Elvis,” a greyhound, wears a hospital ID badge on his collar when he makes the rounds at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Camden, twice a week. A pet therapy dog, he helps patients reduce anxiety and stress.
Elvis, an 85-pound greyhound and new ‘volunteer’ at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, is providing pet therapy services to Lourdes patients, and as his owner and fellow volunteer Geoff Woods says, he is the “star of the show.”
“Elvis and I visit every Monday and Thursday afternoon,” said Woods. “He’s a gentle, calm dog and the patients ‘can’t help falling in love with him.'”
Elvis makes patient rounds on the nursing and rehabilitation units. His goal during rounds is to provide support to patients who may be suffering from emotional or psychological distress.
“Patients pet him and give him treats,” said Woods. “They interact with him and talk about how beautiful he is. You can see having Elvis in the room brightens their spirits.”
Woods has been told that Elvis has made a real impact on patients. “Entering a room with Elvis is always a conversation starter. Patients start petting him and then talk to me about their pets, their lives and sometimes their concerns or worries. Our medical staff has told me that after a visit from Elvis, numerous unresponsive patients become responsive to requests.”
Some of the patients Elvis and Woods visit are those recovering from a stroke, joint replacement, or amputees.
Studies strongly suggests that pets, particularly dogs, can foster cardiovascular health, resistance to stress, and social connectivity. According to studies published in the Public Health Reports of the National Institutes of Health, people with pets were more likely to be alive a year after discharge from a coronary care unit, and can have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Woods, who is retired, has been a Lourdes volunteer since 2008. Elvis, originally named “Flying Adder,” was adopted in June 2013 by Geoff and his wife Sue from a greyhound rescue. Elvis completed basic training and was then certified to be a pet therapy dog. He has his own Lourdes ID badge, which is attached to his dog collar.
Shortly after adoption, the couple decided they needed a simple, one-word name for the greyhound. They are both Elvis fans, and it was the only name they could agree on, said Woods.
“Everyone remembers Elvis’ name,” said Woods. “They don’t always remember mine. That’s OK. I have the supporting role and he’s the star.
“Elvis has done really well at Lourdes. He’s a big dog that’s not threatening. He’s got a great temperament and has a way of helping people relax and forget their problems for a while. It’s a great way of giving back.”
After a visit, Woods often tells patients, “Elvis has left the building – until next week.”