For just a few minutes on Friday, Lane Heaton forgets about being in a hospital bed -- thanks to a special visit from a four-legged friend.

 "It really made me feel good," Heaton said while petting Otis, a Great Pyrenees dog. "It helps take my mind off some of the hurt."

Otis is a big cuddler and pretty popular on Erlanger's fourth floor. However, he does have a job here. Otis is part of Erlanger's Pet Therapy program, and visits patients and their families during tough stays at the hospital.


"A lot of times what happens is, as soon as we walk into a room, there's an instant smile," said Chris Hensley, therapy dog coordinator.

"It takes their mind off of what's going on, and why they're here," Hensley said. "I think one of the best things I've heard a patient or their family say is that this is the first time he or she has smiled since they've been here."

"People just don't realize how comforting a dog is," said Heaton.

Erlanger Health System is currently accepting applications for additional dogs to participate in the Pet Therapy program.

A free information session for interested dog owners will take place on Thursday, October 8 from 6 until 8 p.m. at Children's Hospital at Erlanger.
Human Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT) is partnering with Erlanger to conduct an information session and provide screenings for approved pets.  HABIT is a nonprofit organization that promotes the bond between people and animals.

As a program of The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, the organization sponsors animal-assisted therapy program for all ages and settings such as nursing and retirement homes, assisted living centers, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and schools.  
The information session is free.  Dogs are not permitted to attend.  However, human attendance is required before a person can become a volunteer. Attendance to the session does not imply any obligation to the organization.  Seating is limited.  Please contact Ruth Sapp at or 865-974-5633 for more information or to reserve.