Therapy Dog Returns to Huntington Hospital

Huntington Hospital has brought back Hazel the therapy dog for visits with staff.

The 3-year-old Golden Retriever, with her handler Gary Zelnern, provides a diversion for staff  and a chance for a break from the stresses of caring for critically ill patients.

 Volunteer visits to  hospitals stopped when the COVID-19 epidemic struck, sending a surge of sick patients into the hospital.

“Caring for our staff is as important as caring for our patients, and we will do everything we can to boost morale and prevent burnout,” Nick Fitterman, MD, executive director of Huntington Hospital said. “Having Hazel and Gary back for staff visits was an obvious choice to bring smiles under the masks.”

“Hazel is a certified therapy dog who has been coming to Huntington Hospital for the last six years,”  Zelner, Hazel’s owner and handler, said. “We were saddened when volunteers had to stop coming to the hospital because of the pandemic, but now that we are allowed back, we view it as a sign that things are slowly returning to normal. We’re excited to see what the future holds and look forward to eventually making visits with patients again.”

Huntington Hospital has had a therapy dog program for the last six years. Hazel and  Zelner plan on visiting the hospital about once a week.



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