Back to Top Nellie the therapy dog offers a welcome comfort to patients - The Ottawa Hospital
 

Nellie the therapy dog offers a welcome comfort to patients

 
Nellie the therapy dog offers a welcome comfort to a patient

Patient Erin Grasmeyer shared a laugh with Nellie, the therapy dog, at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre.

Some dogs can do so much more than fetch a bone; some can help others in need.

Nellie is an 11-year-old Collie and a volunteer at The Ottawa Hospital. With some help from her handler, Claire Laroche, Nellie visits The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre regularly to help lift patients’ spirits.

“What makes Nellie special is the fact that she gets it. She feels people’s anger or pain. She actually calms them immediately,” said Laroche.

Therapy dogs are different from service dogs because they interact with a variety of people, rather than just their handlers

During her two years as a volunteer at The Ottawa Hospital, Nellie has helped many people in need, including 18-year-old Erin Grasmeyer. Erin was diagnosed with stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma, a kind of cancer that affects soft tissue. A CT scan revealed that she had a tumor in her chest and another in her abdomen.

Erin is responding to treatment at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre and part of her experience is spending quality time with Nellie. Nellie continues to help lift Erin’s spirits, as Erin focuses on planning for her future.

“When you get cancer, you kind of have to adjust to this new normal. There is a life outside of it, and you do things to make it normal for you. Having a dog around is one of those things,” said Erin.

Laroche said that animals can help take a person away from their pain or illness for a moment. After their visits with Nellie, patients often become much calmer and stronger.

Hospitals and other health-care organizations have used animal-assisted therapy for years as a way to help support patients undergoing medical treatment or other people under stress. Therapy dogs came to the Civic Campus trauma bay and Intensive Care Units after the hospital declared a Code Orange in response to the collision that took place at Westboro bus station. At a time where both patients and staff needed comfort, therapy dogs were ready for pets, hugs and smiles.

“People have a story to share. The client is sharing their story with the dog,” said Laroche. “There’s a magical connection between a person and a dog.”

Many patients have shared their stories with Nellie over the years. Some have even sung to her. No matter their health situation, when patients see Nellie and feel her angelic personality, they simply smile and feel a sense of relief.

 
Comment

Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


You might also like…

Support aides: An entry point into a career in caregiving

Support aides help to provide relief to our care teams and companionship to our patients. It can be a challenging role, but it can also be inspiring. Just ask Jasmine, Keith and Ricardo. Passionate about helping others and guided by their mentors, they have all decided to further their training and grow their careers in health care.

“My craft is to make people happy”

As a shuttle bus driver at The Ottawa Hospital, Bill Nauffts knows that staying on schedule could literally be the difference between life and death—but it’s what Bill does during his break that brings him and others the greatest joy.

Becoming a living kidney donor has never been easier: Trina and Antonio’s story

Kidney donors like Trina usually face many months of tests, but a new program at The Ottawa Hospital allowed her to complete nearly all of them in just one day. Trina shares her experience as a living donor and how this new program made it easier to give her brother the gift of life.

After 31 years of service, Stefan Mayer will soon hang up his blue volunteer jacket

For more than 30 years, volunteer photographer Stefan Mayer has captured important moments at The Ottawa Hospital, from awards ceremonies to newborn photos. Soon to turn 97, he will leave behind an incredible legacy when he retires from his volunteer career with us later this fall.

Former patient seeks out the man behind “the voice”

During a vulnerable time in his recovery from leukemia, Gary Davis found comfort in the most unexpected place—the voice on our recorded telephone system. Five years later, he set out on a mission to find and meet the person on the other end of the line.

How patients and family members are helping to infuse pride into The Ottawa Hospital’s DNA

Learn about four initiatives spearheaded by our Rainbow Patient and Family Advisory Committee (PFAC) that are helping to create safer spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.