Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Sometimes the best therapists don’t say a thing. They let you run your fingers through their hair, nuzzle your hand with their nose and maybe even lick you. Sutter Coast Hospital has one such therapist, in a manner of speaking.

Champ, a 13-year-old golden retriever has been on the job at Sutter Coast Hospital’s Acute Care Unit since last fall, visiting patients to provide the warmth and support that only man’s best friend can offer.

According to Acute Care Manger Deanna Russell, Champ was checked out and allowed to start visiting patients back in August.

Champ’s Owner, Nancy Wilson, said everyone, including the hospital staff, is happy to see him when he comes to the hospital.

“Now, every Friday, in Acute Rehab, he visits any patients who want him to come in,” Russell said. “He’s been a bright light here and people really enjoy him.” Russell said the program may expand into other areas of the hospital.

Russell explained that patients in the center may be bedridden with conditions such as brain injury or trauma, stroke, or other serious injuries. Champ is brought to their bedside where patients can pet, talk to and build a rapport with Champ, she said.

“He’s a very calming presence, really a good dog.” Russell said.

Wilson said she first checks with staff to see who would like a visit, and most patients do.

“Most just want to pet him and talk to him,” she said, noting that she will often sit quietly by as long as the patient wants to visit with Champ.

Russell said Champ sees at least six patients every Friday and the program has been very successful and popular. Wilson said he’s also a regular visitor to Tractor Supply in Crescent City.

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