Eight dogs graduate pet therapy program

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Saturday morning eight special canines graduated from a program that helps ease the stress for patients in hospitals and nurses homes.

The dogs that graduated in Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi pet therapy aren't all pure bred and they don't all hold pedigrees, however, they can now be considered pet therapy dogs after graduating from the nonprofit's program.

Pet handler Julene Mayewski's dogs Luie and Pablo have already taken part in the program and passed retesting. She's experienced firsthand the effects man's best friend has on the sick.

"The purpose of our program is to help people to feel better because they are in some kind of distress or they need some kind of help to cope with whatever they are coping with," said Mayewski.

Before the dogs visit area hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities they must be meet certain standards.

"We prefer that they go through some sort of obedience training first. And then we have a program that the pet partners require," said Mayewski.

"They need to be able to handle someone coming in and squeezing them a little too hard. Or if they hear some very loud noises so they actually go through the pace of those various different scenarios," Pet handler Patricia Craft said as she held her Pomeranian named Champagne.

Coordinators say the tail wagers have a way of bringing back normalcy to hospital patients.

"When Champagne walks in, it is an unconditional touch. It's an unconditional kiss. And there's nothing more important and more fabulous than being able to help individuals like that," Craft explained.

With 30 experienced dogs servicing the Gulf Coast area, coordinators say they are always looking for a few good dogs.

If you're interested in learning more about the pet therapy program or signing up CLICK HERE.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.