Carilion Clinic therapy dogs bring joy to patients

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Laughter and smiles filled Carilion Children's Hospital. All thanks to Paxton, who's not your average visitor. He's a 130-pound fluffy dog, bringing holiday cheer and stress relief to each patient he greets.

WDBJ7 Photo

Paxton is a three-year-old Leonburger, an uncommon dog breed known to be gentle giants. For Carilion patients like nine-year-old identical twins Riley and Chris Lefew, Paxton is a gift.

"We enjoy it, we look forward to him coming when we're in, wherever we're at hospitalized, that's an enjoyment, it's something to look forward to as a break in whatever is going on medically," Lisa Lefew, the twins' mother, said.

Lisa is in and out of Carilion Children's Hospital often with her two sons. But she says Carilion's Pet Pals Volunteer Program makes family visits to the hospital a little less tough.

"Its a great distraction, I enjoy it, it's a stress reliever for me in and of itself to see them," Lisa said.

The hospital's therapy dog program has been running for over 20 years. Physician Natalie Klawonn is among the volunteers who take the dogs to see patients. And it's her own dog, Paxton, that cheers them up.

"It's not going to make everything go away, but I do think for a brief moment in time they can forget what's going on, it just brings them some joy, and hopefully something they can look forward to," Klawonn said.

The hospital plans to keep bringing these lovable dogs to patients for years to come.

"Every time we leave, we know we made a difference for a parent, a patient or anybody around, it's just very rewarding, and I know how great it makes them feel," Linda Perdue, the Volunteer Coordinator of
Carilion's Pet Pals program, said.

Copyright 2019 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.