Thursday afternoon, Murphy, a seven year old poodle, and his owner Jim Harger auditioned for a special gig at Swedish American Hospital. The audition was for a therapy dog position with the Caring Canines team. It’s an initiative to bring patients a furry companion in their time of need.
“They’re truly very sensitive to our patients needs here in the hospital,” said Caring Canines assistant Claudia Aschbrenner. “They have not only an emotional effect, but truly they do have a physical affect on that person,” she added.
The program currently has 27 dogs that help patients in the cancer center and at the Belvidere clinic. Murphy and Harger ran through basic obedience tests to hopefully be number 28. “It’s a chance to just share him, I enjoy him and I enjoy sharing him with other people,” Harger said.
Aschbrenner was impressed with Murphy’s audition. “Jim has worked with him and understands obedience training and they’re both so personable,” she said.
Harger wanted to be a part of the program after seeing the positive affect therapy dogs had on his wife when she was in the hospital. “I’m doing this now because I have the time, life has been good to me and it’s time to give back,” he said.
Murphy passed the first stage with flying colors, but still has a little more work before becoming a Caring Canine. “We’re going to send them home with a little bit of homework,” said Aschbrenner. “Then they will come back in a couple weeks and do their final skills assessment, and then we will see if Jim and Murphy are joining the Caring Canines,” she added.
The Caring Canines team says they are always looking for more therapy dogs. The next audition will be in the fall, dogs do need to be certified by the National Therapy Dog Organization before auditioning.