SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The power of pet therapy can be seen inside the walls of St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The program, which started in 2013, is made possible thanks to a partnership with Pet Partners of Central New York.

Lynne Werbeck, one of the registered nurses at St. Joseph’s Health says visits from the dogs help improve patient outcomes, pain, anxiety, and depression.

With the hospital’s current COVID-19 visitation policy, dogs and their humans can’t go inside patient rooms, so they’re instead focusing all paws on serving another important purpose.

Pups like Casey, a loving golden retriever, are helping to heal the hearts of healthcare heroes who have had a challenging 18 months, to say the least.

“It helps with coping skills, building resilience, and it creates an authentic, unconditional, loving, and supportive environment,” said Werbeck. “They really are comfort creatures.”

Eva Shanley is one of the volunteers with Pet Partners. She’s also Casey’s mom.

They have been visiting places around Central New York since 2016. “My favorite part is when somebody says to me how grateful they were and what a difference we made,” she said.

One specific visit always sticks out to her. A patient who was in the hospital for a cardiac event later donated to Pet Partners of CNY.

It took her longer to recover than she thought it was going to. She wrote this nice letter and said, ‘I know the visits from those two dogs helped me get out of here faster’ and I still have that.

Eva Shanley

It’s letters like that one along with seeing smiles from the staff that keeps them coming back. “It helps them [nurses],” said Shanley.

Right now, they try to lift patients’ spirits by stopping in their doorways. Eventually, they’ll be back inside their rooms again.

Until then, dogs like Casey will continue wagging their tails and making their rounds, hoping to give our healthcare heroes a little extra love on their toughest days.

Visit Pet Partners of CNY to learn more about the organization.

From their website, you can donate to Pet Partners or learn how you and your pet can become a therapy team.