CommunityBrand SpotlightYour Healthy Family

Actions

Your Healthy Family: Sky the therapy dog amazes patients and staff at UCHealth Memorial

Posted at 3:26 PM, Jun 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-09 17:52:07-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — In this Your Healthy Family, this week I had the chance to visit the inpatient rehabilitation unit at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs.

It’s a place where through intensive therapy, patients work hard to regain and relearn important life skills and abilities.

On Tuesday, June 7, they had a couple of very special guests who were there to provide some entertainment, encouragement, inspiration and smiles.

Visitors were Sky, a 7-year-old Toy Fox Terrier who has more than a few tricks up his sleeve, and Sue McTigue, Sky’s handler and doggie mom. Sue and Sky are members of GO TEAM Therapy dogs, and the magic they work together helps people facing difficult challenges.

Sue and Sky know more tricks than can be done in the hour or so they put on a show. Tricks like finding a ringing cell phone and bringing it back, stacking cups inside of each other by size, and loading up a tiny shopping cart with Sky’s favorite stuffed animals and then pushing it across the room, reading a book, even riding a skateboard - to name just a few.

Sue says, “I love to see the smiles on everyone’s faces here today. Everyone here, the patients and staff, is working very hard. They are working hard - like Sky and I have to learn to do something in a different way, or to learn to do something that is really hard to do that they just can’t see themselves doing right now. I think it's inspiring for them to see him.”

UCHealth Recreational Therapist Colleen Roy knows that anything that can help these patients feel better is medicine that’s good for their soul. Colleen says, “These patients say, 'oh my god, that’s the best thing I've seen in days or weeks.’ Many of them have been here for weeks or months, and (Sky) gives them a great day and that's what is most important. We have all the therapy and care but sometimes just having them doing something fun makes such a huge difference and helps them feel better about themselves and do better therapy.”

Doing better in therapy helps them progress faster. As a therapy dog, Sky makes appearances in many places, but Sue says he always shows unusual excitement when she pulls up at UCHealth Memorial Hospital. “He starts whining when we get close to the hospital. He knows not to pull on the leash, but when we get out of the car he pulls me in the front door. I usually have to sit him, to remind him we don't do that. We go check in at the volunteer office and then again he will pull me to the elevator. He knows which elevator goes to the seventh floor and that’s where he wants to be. If the elevator stops on the third floor and the doors open, he’ll sniff and he's fine. Fifth floor, the door will open on the elevator. He's fine. Seventh floor the doors open and after a couple of sniffs - boom there he goes. I forget where Dr. Kelly’s office is but he doesn't - he takes me right there. Dr. Kelly is his favorite.”

In our next story, Sue will share the story of how she and Sky became a dynamic volunteer therapy dog duo, and all the hard work she and Sky put into learning new tricks to keep the smiles coming.

UCHealth is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family