Sometimes, the best friend one can have is the four-legged, furry kind.

Pet Therapy dog

Above: Marsha Litton Baker with her dog, Magnolia
At Mountain States Health Alliance Facilities, the Pet Therapy Program brings specially trained dogs in to lift the spirits of patients and create an atmosphere of caring. “We see this as just one of the ways we can provide comfort and support for our patients,” said Van Cooper, Project Coordinator, Patient-Centered Care. “Recent studies have shown that a person holding or petting an animal will have a decrease in blood pressure, a release of strain and tension, and may be drawn out from loneliness and depression. The decrease in anxiety is wonderful. These dogs help take the patient’s mind off their illness.”

Each dog in the program is trained and certified by Therapy Dogs International. TDI also requires dogs be tested around medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, crutches and walkers. Therapy dogs must be well-behaved around all ages and able to ignore food or treats lying on the ground. Most dogs are owned, trained and handled by community volunteers, while Mountain States offers the training for those interested in being involved in the program.

Pet Therapy animals wear a red bandanna and have MSHA identification plus the Therapy Dogs International ID on the collar for easy identification. The pawprint sign is placed beside the patient's door as an indicator of a pet therapy visit! 

Becoming a Pet Therapy Dog

  • Basic obedience training is preferred before entering class
  • Dogs must be 6 months old to take the class
  • Dogs must be 1 year old to test for Therapy Dogs International
  • Dogs must have current vaccinations and have current vet record of good health
  • Classes are offered quarterly through MSHA
  • For more information call (423) 431-6681

Meet some of our Pet Therapy Dogs

For more information about Pet Therapy contact:
J. Van Cooper
Patient-Centered Care