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Therapy Dog Knows Exactly How To Comfort Woman Recovering From Brain Surgery

“It seemed like ‘love at first sight’ or maybe her intuition kicking in with the realization that Tracey needed a little more care and attention.”

Last week, Nicole Celeban and her therapy dog, Lady Darci, went into Nepean Hospital in New South Wales, Australia, to visit a particular patient.

“I came to the hospital on special visit to see a patient who had very little time left — he passed away later that night,” Celeban, president of Nepean Therapy Dogs, told The Dodo. “After visiting with him, we still had some energy left, so we visited the other patients on the ward.”

This is how Celeban and Lady Darci met Tracey Price, a woman who, as it turned out, really needed a visit with a furry friend.

Therapy dog with woman in hospital
Nepean Therapy Dogs

Price had just gotten out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after getting brain surgery for a life-threatening condition. The operation had brought about a few complications, and Price was feeling emotional and a little scared. She was also missing her family and friends, who lived in a town seven hours away from the hospital.

But everything changed when Lady Darci bounded into Price’s hospital room.

“It was a surprise,” Price told The Dodo. “It was a very exciting surprise.”
 

Therapy dog with woman in hospital
Nepean Therapy Dogs

With Price’s permission, Lady Darci hopped up on Price’s bed and snuggled up against her — and this was exactly what Price seemed to need.

“It was also a major mood changer, like a switch moved from negative back into positive mode,” Price said. “That’s all I needed to reset the brain. It just changed me.”

Therapy dog visiting woman in hospital
Nepean Therapy Dogs

“I think my favorite part was when [Lady Darci] really looked at me,” Price added. “She wasn’t just laying on a bed with a patient — she actually connected with me personally.”

Celeban, who trained Lady Darci to be a therapy dog four years ago, wasn’t surprised by her dog’s ability to connect with Price.

“Lady Darci is a very skilled dog, very intuitive and seems to know what any patient needs,” Celeban said. “Most often when she’s placed on the bed, she’ll reach up to the patient, touch nose to nose, without licking. Once she’s said hello in her way, she’ll lie down next to the patient and snooze.”

Therapy dog visiting woman in hospital
Nepean Therapy Dogs

“We don’t choose the patient — the patient mostly chooses us,” Celeban said. “Sometimes people don’t have the energy for a visit or are not dog lovers, and we respect that.  When we enter a room, we ask, ‘Would anyone like puppy cuddles?’ If they say, ‘Yes,’ we bring a dog over.”

For Price, a visit with Lady Darci made a huge difference — she was even discharged a few days early. But before she left the hospital, she got one more visit with this special dog.
 

Therapy dogs visiting woman in hospital
Before being discharged from the hospital, Price got to see Lady Darci and another therapy dog one more time | Nepean Therapy Dogs

While Lady Darci bonds with most patients she visits, Celeban noticed an extra special connection between Tracey and Lady Darci.

“Lady Darci laid back into her arms and held a prolonged gaze,” Celeban said. “It seemed like ‘love at first sight’ or maybe her intuition kicking in with the realization that Tracey needed a little more care and attention.”

Lady Darci isn’t the only dog who visits patients. Nepean Therapy Dogs has 40 volunteers who take 31 therapy dogs to visit people at Nepean Hospital.

Therapy dogs with woman in hospital
Nepean Therapy Dogs

"I'll go to bed happy tonight,” Price said after her second visit with Lady Darci.

Nepean Therapy Dogs is a volunteer-run organization that survives on donations. To help support this program, and connect more dogs with patients, you can make a donation. You can also follow the organization’s work on Facebook.