Volunteer Month: Four-Legged Friends
April is Volunteer Month. All month, our wonderful cancer volunteers will share why they give of themselves, in their own words.
Roxy and Tammy barely make it through the front door of CHI Health Lakeside Hospital before people rush up to them.
The eight-year-old short-haired dachshund and 12-year-old English lab are registered therapy dogs and work as a team, along with owners Pam Egger and Donny Paisley. The four come to Lakeside to visit cancer patients and to help them put aside their battles for a while and laugh a little.
“It’s the best job I ever had,” smiles volunteer Egger. She figures Roxy interacts with about a hundred patients a year at Lakeside. “Just to see everybody smile and how excited they get makes it worth it. They tell me, ‘I got my fix.’ It makes me so happy.” Roxy—who has brightly painted toenails and always dresses up in costume—is the third therapy dog Egger has had since 2007. She works side-by-side with the much-larger Tammy. “They love each other,” Paisley says.
Tammy was originally trained to be a guide dog for the blind but when vets found elbow dysplasia, a developmental abnormality of her elbow joint, she was sidelined. She was so calm and so well-trained that Paisley says she was a natural to become a therapy dog. Cancer patients love the laid back black-furred canine and spend a lot of time just petting Tammy. Paisley says she provides an important distraction. “They don’t talk about their health. They talk about their pets and that makes them happy. I love the joy it brings to people.”
Because she moves slowly from age, Tammy might be retiring and not be making the rounds at Lakeside much longer. But both Paisley and Egger say they will continue to bring their therapy dogs to brighten patients’ days. “I intend to do this as long as I have a dog,” Egger says.