Dogs provide comfort to St. Peter’s patients, staff

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HELENA – Some of the newest members of the St. Peter’s Health team are not doctors or nurses. In fact, they are not humans at all – they are two specially trained service dogs.

Blue Bonnet and Mocha are both golden retrievers and have important roles in the hospital.

“Her mission is to support and comfort patients and make them smile,” said Trish Dick, health chaplain for St. Peter’s Health. “When patients smile and comfort themselves, they have done their job.”

Dick works with 5 year old Blue Bonnet and Kim Pepper of St. Peter’s Health Kaplan works with 3 year old Mocha.

Blue Bonnet and Mocha came to Montana from Canine Assistants in Georgia – an organization that provides a variety of service dogs for things like seizure detection, diabetes alarms, mobility services, and dogs from hospitals.

“By the time they put them in a hospital, they’ll have about 3,000 hours in major hospitals in Atlanta,” Pepper said of the dogs.

Blue Bonnet arrived at St. Peter’s after working at Shodiar Children’s Hospital. The ward donors and St. Peter’s staff helped bring Mocha to the hospital.

Canine Assistants don’t charge for their services, so the funds help to train mocha and provide a service dog for someone else who needs one, Pepper said.

“This is a very special part of this program for me,” said Pepper. “The work of the Helena Community will help make sure that someone else has a great dog like us.”

Blue Bonnet and Mocha have put a lot of work into St. Peter’s Health. They visit places like the intensive care unit and the emergency room.

“I had a patient say it was like being calm in the center of the storm for them,” Pepper said.

In addition to comforting patients, they visit nurses, doctors, and other staff.

“Mocha goes to and visits IT at least a couple of times a week,” said Pepper. “There are other areas that might not be considered frontline in the hospital, but the staff really needs that extra support, especially during this time.”

Unofficially known as “love lights”, the two dogs enjoy their time at work.

“They love it!” said Dick. “I think if I left Blue Bonnet at home she would be bored.”

And the people who comfort her in the hospital immediately love her.