PUPS program offers patients stress relief, furry friend

PUPS program offers patients stress relief, furry friend

KEESLER AFB, BILOXI (WLOX) - Some unexpected visitors will soon bring more than smiles to people receiving treatment at Keesler Medical Center.

The Patients Utilizing Pets Services Program allows dogs certified through Delta Society in Gulfport to visit patients. It is not new to the coast, but the 81st Medical Group is only just beginning to utilize the pets.

The partnership would not have happened without the help of Sandy Schlett, the coordinator and liaison between visiting pet teams of South Mississippi and Keesler Medical Center.

"When I got involved with the group the visiting pet teams were visiting patients at the VA, at hospitals in Pascagoula and Gulfport," said Schlett. "Being here at Keesler, I realized there was no program here."

The canines are set to start helping patients at the facility beginning in October. One of those dogs in the program is Toby. His owner Jan Tucker says he's used to spending time with others.

"Toby and I just happen to be a part of the VA, where we visit twice a month," said Tucker. "We visit the nursing home residents and also oncology. We have visited at a couple other nursing homes and stuff like that as time permits."

Those visits help patients recovering from surgery or other procedures help relieve stress, something that is welcomed by most.

"I think it's fantastic," said Sue Reiter, a patient at the center. "I'm very happy that Toby came to see me today."

The pups and patients spend up to two hours together. In the end, more than just those two hearts are a little happier.

"It makes me feel good," said Tucker. "It gives me a warm feeling that we're doing something good for the dog and the people. Of course, the dogs enjoy it anyway. But it makes me feel good that we can bring a little bit of happiness the short time that we're there."

Those wanting to volunteer their dog to the PUPS program can contact 1st Lt. Jessica Bertke at 228-376-5612 or the Delta Society at 228-265-0336.

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