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MRC News

Published on December 18, 2001
Collin Johnson
Health and Research News Service

Mary Dykes, left, of Rolling Fork plays with Adam, an Australian shepherd. Adam and six other canine therapists visited patients at Methodist Rehabilitation Center.

JACKSON, Miss.—Some dogs were just born to help others, says Suzanne Sims.

Take Adam, for instance. The 10 year-old Australian shepherd has been lending a warm paw to people with problems for seven years since a holiday visit to Methodist Rehabilitation Center changed his world.

“He was a rescue dog and he just took to therapy and helping others,” Sims said. “We had visited Methodist Rehab just before Christmas and my heart went out to all the patients who didn’t have family to come visit them over the holidays so we decided to make it an annual event.

“I really believe Adam was put on earth for this kind of therapy,” she added.

During a recent visit to Methodist Rehab, Adam and six of his friends from Canine Therapists of Mississippi entertained patients on the Jackson hospital’s brain and spinal cord injury floors.

The dogs performed tricks and stunts while playing with the patients.

“They’re so beautiful,” said Mary Dykes of Rolling Fork. Dykes, who suffered a head injury in a fall, sat with her husband, Griffin, while the dogs took turns introducing themselves and putting on a show.

Dykes said the dogs reminded her of ones at home. “We love dogs and they’re so sweet,” she said.

The dogs know they’re making a difference and enjoy doing it, said Jo Beth Williams of Vicksburg. Williams’ dog, Faith, has been visiting hospitals and nursing homes for years.

“She knows what I mean when I say ‘visit’ around the house,” Williams said. “Her ears point up and she gets excited. She loves meeting the patients.”

Since Adam’s visit seven years ago, pet therapy has become a fixture at Methodist Rehab. In June, the hospital’s resident therapy golden retriever, Fair, celebrated his fourth birthday and two years of working with patients in the hospital. He is the only canine working full-time with patients in a Mississippi hospital. Erin Pryor, Fair’s handler and a physical therapist, said patients love to see him coming.

Fair helps patients work on different skills and plays with them by pulling their socks off and returning thrown tennis balls. “He’s a spirit lifter,” Pryor said. “He makes people smile.”