Caring Canines therapy dogs celebrate 20,000th visit

December 26, 2012

Dec. 12, Alicia McKinney and English labrador retriever, Ben, marked the 20,000th visit made by the Caring Canines during a visit with Johnny Marlowe, a patient in the Heart Hospital at SwedishAmerican. (Photo provided)

Staff Report

The Caring Canines therapy dogs at Rockford’s SwedishAmerican Hospital first brought smiles to patients, guests and staff members on Sept. 15, 2010. Starting with an initial group of five therapy dog teams visiting with patients in the Center for Mental Health, the Caring Canines now include 21 teams that visit 12 different areas of the hospital and clinics.

Dec. 12, one of the original therapy dog teams of Alicia McKinney and her almost 7-year-old English labrador retriever, Ben, marked the 20,000th visit made by the Caring Canines.

McKinney, a retired X-ray technician, notes that she loves to visit at the hospital almost as much as Ben does. In fact, sharing Ben with patients led her to train another one of her dogs, a yellow lab named Maria, to become a Caring Canine team member as well.

Ben’s love for his job was evident on this special milestone occasion when he visited with Johnny Marlowe, a patient in the Heart Hospital at SwedishAmerican. Marlowe stated he loves dogs and thoroughly enjoyed a visit by a friendly, four-legged stress-reliever.

Current members of the Caring Canines range from a 7-pound long-haired Chihuahua to a 110-pound black lab. Other breeds include shih tzus, Pekingese, an Australian Shepherd, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, border collie, Basset hound, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, English setter, golden retriever, boxer, Mexican hairless and dogs of mixed parentage.

Dec. 12, Johnny Marlowe, a patient in the Heart Hospital at SwedishAmerican, was the 20,000th person to benefit from a visit by the hospital’s Caring Canines program. He is pictured with Ben, an English labrador retriever. (Photo provided)

The Caring Canines are always looking for new team members. For more information, contact Animal Assisted Therapy Coordinator Deb Schwarze at (779) 696-2166 or dschwarze@swedishamerican.org.

SwedishAmerican is a not-for-profit, locally governed health care system with headquarters in Rockford. The health system is composed of two hospitals, 30 clinics, a home health care agency, a foundation, and has an exclusive affiliation with UW Health in northern Illinois.

From the Dec. 26, 2012-Jan. 1, 2013, issue

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