He is one of the most popular members of the Sanford Fargo Behavioral Health Team and has been working on the inpatient floor for a year. He is also the unit’s first therapy dog.
He does everything his owner and trainer, behavioral therapist Lacey Blaufuss of Sanford Health, does and attends three group therapy sessions a day.
“During this time, Gus sometimes wanders around the room. Sometimes Gus only sleeps during the group and patients can go to him. They can sit down and pet him,” said Blaufuss.
“Animals are very non-judgmental, they are very comforting, and people can connect with them in ways that are sometimes more difficult to do with a person,” said Sanford Health psychiatrist Dr. Lisa shock.
Studies show that therapy dogs can make people happier and calmer. Just petting Gus can release hormones that improve mood, lower anxiety and blood pressure, and decrease loneliness.
“When a patient is in the hospital and doesn’t always have a lot to do with things outside of a limited environment, they bring something new and different with them,” said Schock.
Blaufuss says she saw firsthand how Gus can help with patients who may have been with the behavioral health department for extended periods of time.
“Maybe they (patients) are really feeling down. I’ll bring him in and immediately their whole expression will change,” said Blaufuss. “They smile and they are excited.”
Not only does Gus help with patients, the staff also love the well-trained dog.
“Gus took 28 weeks of obedience training and a lot of specialty training to get used to working in the hospital,” said Blaufuss.
Having her best buddy at work is a huge benefit for Blue Foot.
“Being with my best buddy every day – hanging out with my dog at work all day,” said Blaufuss. “People say, ‘You know, you have the best job in the world.'”