Animal therapy program celebrates 15 years of service in the mid-state

Posted at 4:23 PM, Jun 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-03 15:14:03-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Volunteers with a local animal therapy non-profit have been making a difference in Middle Tennessee for 15 years.

On Sunday, therapy dogs, pigs, and bunny rabbits were thanked for brightening people's lives during tough times.

Michelle Thompson said, "They just melt, and they can't wait to touch him because he's so soft, and they can't wait to snuggle with him."

Swoosh is a toy Pomeranian. His handler, Michelle Thompson, said through Therapy Animals Reaching Clients, they've been able to touch many lives.

Thompson said, "It's such a rewarding program, from the people who sponsor the group, to everybody in the group, is so pulling for you and your pet team."

Swoosh frequently visits patients at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They also go to schools and military events. Recently, he was able to cheer up a little girl with cancer.

Thompson said, "Anytime anyone came near her she would scream bloody murder, nurses couldn't get near her, doctors couldn't get near her, and then we had a visit with her one day, and ever since then she was totally fine."

The animals in the program have also made an impact at psychiatric hospitals.

Jameson Norton said, "I've seen some incredible moments. This feeling of trust and belonging that can be very difficult early on in the treatment process, is possible with these amazing animals."

As the CEO of Vanderbilt's Psychiatric Hospital, Norton has seen first hand how the therapy animals have made a difference.

Norton said, "It is so invaluable to our team, I cannot picture the work that we do without them at this point."

On Sunday, therapy animal teams came together for a luncheon to celebrate 15 years of service in the community. To learn more about the program and who they serve go here.