Stateline Strong: Animal-Assisted Therapy Volunteer Helps Others Amid Personal Health Battles


At the hospital we expect healing hands. But as Jude, a sheltie, pads down the hall at OSF St. Anthony with his handler, Barb, the pup is proof that sometimes fur is the cure.

“He will bring a smile to peoples’ faces,” said Barb Roberts, OSF Animal-Assisted Therapy Volunteer about her dog, Jude. The two have been offering snuggles to patients for about five years.

“Even if we do visits for just a few minutes it makes a huge difference.”

Barb knows exactly how a furry friend can lift the spirits of those going through health issues. She started volunteering with her previous dog, Cooper, after battling breast cancer in 2007. Ten years later, Jude was by Barb’s side when she got the news that the cancer had come back.

“You just do what you have to do,” said Barb about her most recent diagnosis. “You make the decisions. You move forward.”

“She’s just really an inspiration,” Theresa Geraci said about Barb, who she’s known for the past decade. Geraci is the coordinator of OSF’s Animal-Assisted Therapy dog program. She’s in charge of all 36 volunteers made up of man and man’s best friend.

“There usually is a dog in to visit 365 days a year,” said Geraci. But Geraci says more people and their pups are needed to meet the demand, and she promises that patients won’t be the only ones left with a smile.

“They say, you know, ‘Theresa I didn’t expect to feel this way’, you know ,’this makes me feel so good, I enjoy coming in,’ so it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Barb is better now, and with a new leash on life and a new puppy in training already, she’s ready for more rounds in the future.

If you’d like to become an OSF Animal-Assisted Therapy volunteer, you’re asked to submit an application no later than Feb. 14, 2018. Auditions will be held the following Saturday, Feb. 17 at 10 in the morning.

For more information on the program, as well as a link to the application, click here.

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