There's a docile six-year-old dachshund-shih tzu-spaniel mix who began visiting patients at Syosset Hospital last year. Her name is Gracie, and she's a Northwell therapy dog. Beyond her friendliness and fur, there's a deeper psychological connection to Gracie's caregiving.
"A lot of people have dogs at home. I think, for many, a dog is a sign of comfort and normalcy of everyday life, " says Beth Steinberg, Gracie's mom, a Northwell Health pet therapy volunteer. "When people are in the hospital they're stressed, there's a lot going on and usually plenty of waiting. When Gracie walks in, she's very comforting to patients and visitors. A lot of people will say, 'You made my day,' because they're feeling nervous or afraid, and Gracie helps calm them."
Maybe that's because Gracie understands. Her own past wasn't easy.
"I got Gracie when she was about two years old through a rescue organization in New Jersey. She was taken from a home where she was abused and neglected," says Ms. Steinberg. "She seems like she wants to give back. I think she senses that she's making people happy and bringing something to them."