It seems like a typical day at any hospital.
Nurses and doctors clad in scrubs walk through the halls, pens and charts in hand, while family and friends pop in and out of rooms to visit patients, some bringing food and flowers.
A typical day, until they round a corner and come face to face with Charlie.
“Aww, Charlie!” A young nurse stops and scratches the 85 pound goldendoodle behind the ears before giving Jim Malin, his handler, a shy smile and continues walking.
Ten steps down the hall an elderly woman stops in her tracks before letting out an excited squeal.
“That is a beautiful dog! Seeing him has really made my day,” she says while running her fingers through his golden curls.
The woman slowly walks away, smiling and stealing glances back at Charlie.
“That’s a common reaction, he really makes people’s day,” says Malin.
Jim Malin has been bringing his therapy dog Charlie to Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio to brighten spirits once a week for the past 4 years.
“We really want to be here and help these patients as much as we can,” said Malin.
Malin first got Charlie, a goldendoodle (half poodle and half golden retriever) as a family pet, and it wasn’t until several people suggested therapy dog training during Charlie’s obedience classes that Malin considered the idea.
“We had over 20 people comment on how intelligent and well-behaved Charlie was and they all suggested he start training as a therapy animal,” he said.
Malin browsed the Internet afterwards and learned about the training required for a dog to become a therapy animal.
“I was looking at this long list of requirements in behavior and then looking at this little fuzzy lump on the floor, and I didn’t think it was possible,” he said.
However, Charlie continued to excel in his obedience classes, and eventually Malin decided that Charlie was more than capable to become a therapy dog, he said.
Malin brings Charlie to the oncology ward and the surgical waiting area once a week at Riverside Hospital, two places where he believes Charlie can do some of his best work.
“Both oncology and surgical waiting are high stress areas, not only for the patients, but also the families, and that’s where Charlie gets a chance to shine and really ease their stress” said Malin.
Malin, whose family has been touched by cancer in the past, believes that it’s equally important for Charlie to lift the spirits of the families of the patients as well.
“It’s important to know not only the trauma the patients go through, but the trauma the family goes through, a lot of times they’re hurting and equally stressed,” he said.
When Malin enters a room with Charlie, the therapy dog has been trained to perform certain tasks step by step.
“Charlie knows that when he enters a room he first goes to the patient, which he intuitively knows if they are mobile or not so he adjusts accordingly. After the patient stops petting him he goes to any visitors in the room and when they’re done petting him he lays down,” said Malin.
Not only is Charlie well trained and disciplined, but he is also very intuitive to the needs of the patients and visitors in the room.
“Charlie knows he’s not supposed to jump on patients or crawl on them, however, a little girl was visiting her sick mother one day, and after Charlie did his routine he crawled on the little girl’s lap and laid down with her quietly on the floor. He must have known she needed that, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” said Malin.
The joy that Charlie brings to the patients at Riverside is undeniable, he said.
“Charlie gives a warm fuzzy to people here, I’ve had people hold him and cry, lay on the floor and cuddle with him, he really brightens everyone’s day, which is why we’re here.” — Kimberly Hill
Kimberly Hill is an animal lover, a travel enthusiast, a veteran and a Columbus, Ohio native.
For more information about therapy dogs, visit Therapy Dogs International.
For local therapy dog training classes and information visit Angie’s Therapy Dog Class.