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Saline Memorial Hospital hires therapy dog for staff, patients

"Get her in your lap and love her for a little bit. You'll forget about your troubles,” said Ruth Phillips, a patient.

We like to call our dogs "man's best friend," but for some like Bella, they become a friend to total strangers by providing therapy.

"She's just a normal, happy puppy when she doesn't have her vest on, but she knows when it is time to go to work,” said Debbie Wright, Bella’s handler.

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Suited for success, Bella has an important job to do.

She and Wright volunteer their time through the non-profit organization, ABLEPaws of Arkansas.

They are both properly trained through the organization to provide therapy to people in all types of settings.

But most recently, Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton requested Bella’s service.

"Get her in your lap and love her for a little bit. You'll forget about your troubles,” said Ruth Phillips, a patient.

Phillips is in rehab at Saline Memorial Hospital as she works to overcome a broken hip.

She’s been hospitalized for about a month, away from home and her own pets, but Bella has helped put her mind at ease.

“Whenever she came up here the first time, it knocked me for a loop because I love dogs,” said Phillips. “She’s good therapy.”

As much support as Bella gives to patients, she gives even more attention to the hands behind the healing.

The nurses need her attention just as much as the patients do on some days.

"I can tell you we have some very stressful days,” said Coral Robison, nurse and director of the Acute Rehab Unit. “Health care gets very busy, and it can change at any minute.”

Robison said a day in the life of a nurse can be full of anxiety and stress sometimes with busy schedules and seeing people at their worst.

“Having Bella here does help to ease the stress and change the mood if we are having a tough day,” said Robison. "When she's here and petting her, it can help reduce the stress so much. You can go back to your job rejuvenated.”

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Bella's pretty popular at Saline Memorial. She can’t make every round, so she might have a few co-workers by her side soon.

"Some of the staff are wanting to get their own dogs in this program so we can have more opportunity for our staff and patients as well,” said Robinson.

Bella also volunteers her time at local libraries, schools, hospice centers, and she’s even made a stop at the airport.

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