Detroy tells stories of stroke patients who are seemingly paralyzed reaching out to pet a therapy dog and of an Alzheimer's patient who had seemingly lost the ability to speak, who began chattering happily when a dog cuddled up to her.
Chester is a beautiful, graceful 4-year-old purebred whippet but he will never win best-in-show at Westminster or any other highfalutin' dog show: The long scar on his left hind leg, evidence of surgery to correct a birth defect, would rule that out.
But to his fans at St. Mary's Medical Center, he's a champion just the same, putting smiles on the faces of patients he visits who are not enjoying the best days of their lives, and the hospital staff charged with their care.
Chester is a "Pet Therapy Dog," one of 29 specially trained and certified dogs "on staff" at St. Mary's, said Vickie Detroy, director of Planetree services there, which oversees the program.
Pet therapy dogs and their handlers walk the halls of St Mary's, primarily in the rehab, pediatrics and mental health units, looking for open doors and invitations to a little one-on-one interaction with the patients, Detroy said.
Their presence is absolutely therapeutic, she explained: "The success stories with stroke, rehab and mental health patients they just light up! Watching the dogs interact with them, it gives you chills."