Mary Dunn has gotten used to one of her coworkers stealing the spotlight.
"Usually the patients kind of forget I'm in the room," she says. "And they're like 'Max!' And then it's like, 'Oh, hi Mary.'" She says that's exactly the way it's supposed to be when Max the therapy dog wags his tail up and down the halls of CHI St. Alexius Medical Center.
"He loves, I think, the attention more than anything," Dunn says. Max was just a puppy when he was adopted by Dunn, the director of activities in the hospital's Transitional Care Unit.
Now the two-year-old golden retriever is a fully certified therapy dog - he even has a name badge and hospital residents can't get enough of him.
"It just kind of breaks up their day," Dunn says. "Helps kind of alleviate some of the stress of being in the hospital."
"Max is good therapy, yeah. No question about it," says John Holman, a resident of the Transitional Care Unit.
"He's so soft and clean, and he's just calm," says Ann Holman, John's wife. "That's calming to the person, too." Indeed, it seems that nobody, not even the hospital staff , is immune to Max's charms. Mary Dunn says therapy dogs like Max aren't just adorable; they serve a real, healing purpose for patients of all ages.
"It helps lower blood pressure," she explains. "It can also help reduce their pain level, and even their mental health, kind of helps with loneliness, depression, that kind of thing."
Let's face it: nobody wants to be in the hospital. That's what makes pet therapy so essential.
"He's a very good companion. He loves people," Dunn says. And that's why Max is a dog you should know and Mary Dunn is someone you should know. Mary and Max also make regular stops at local nursing homes.
Tim Olson Reporting