This year’s therapy dog research team just started collecting data with the help of some furry, four-legged therapists. “Therapy Dogs” are usually someone’s pet, and their owner recognized the characteristics in their pet that make a good therapy dog. These characteristics include being drawn to people, enjoying petting, listening to their owners, and being calm. Many hospitals now have formal therapy dog programs, and therapy dog teams regularly visit patients. Dogs, and other animals, can have a calming effect on people, and this can be especially beneficial in environments known to cause stress. But rather than focus on a dog’s ability to calm patients, this year’s research aims to discover the impact of a therapy dog visit on the family members of patients having surgery or a cardiac procedure. Waiting to hear news from the doctor about a loved one can be stressful, and therapy dogs don’t always visit waiting rooms. Our study is designed to examine whether therapy dogs can reduce stress in the family members of patients who are having surgery. So far Hope, the therapy dog pictured above, along with Harley, Suki-Sue, and Polar (and their owner-handlers) have done a great job partnering with Payton, Jada, Hope (the human), and Philip at Genesis East. Hopefully we will have data from 15-20 participants by the end of the institute. The biggest advantage of doing research on therapy dogs, is being able to get a dose of dog therapy at the beginning and end of each trip to the hospital!