When Lucy is making her rounds at the hospital, visiting her patients, there isn’t much that can faze her.

Except large floor cleaners.

“Yeah, she really doesn’t like the floor cleaning machines,” says Melissa Gieni. “She’ll wait until they pass before she makes a move.”

You see, Lucy is a dog.

Melissa Gieni and Lucy visit with Stanley Sookochoff at Saskatoon City Hospital.

Melissa Gieni and Lucy visit with Stanley Sookochoff at Saskatoon City Hospital.

The four year old Great Dane is a therapy dog, certified through St. John’s Ambulance. Gieni has had Lucy since Lucy was about 6 weeks old and she has been a therapy dog since she was one year old.

On this particular day, Lucy was visiting patients on the Transitional Care Unit at Saskatoon City Hospital. Stanley Sookochoff is one of Lucy’s favourite people to visit and after spending a few minutes with the two of them, it’s easy to see why; Stanley is pretty generous with the treats.

“Alright, just one more and that’s it!” laughs Gieni.

Stanley and patients like him are the best part of Gieni’s and Lucy’s jobs. “Seeing people like Stanley smile is just wonderful because it means that, even for just a few minutes, they aren’t feeling sick or in pain,” says Gieni. ‘They stop being a patient and just become a person petting a dog.”

Gieni and Lucy got involved in the program when a friend told her about it. “My friend’s dog was a therapy dog and when she told me about it, I thought Lucy would be great at it.”

What makes the Great Dane great is that she has a good temperament, is very calm and while she likes everyone she meets, she’s doesn’t like them too much. “She’s not in everyone’s face,” explains Gieni. “Her approach is more like ‘if you want to pet me, that’s great but if you don’t, that’s ok too’.”

The certification process for therapy dogs is quite rigorous, involving many different potential scenarios. “They tested how she reacted to loud noises and to people tugging her ears or her tail,” says Gieni. The ultimate test came when Gieni had to walk Lucy into a circle of people who then proceeded to rush at the dog, shouting her name and touching her all at once. “All she had to do was stay calm and she did, so she passed.”

In addition to the Transitional Care Unit at City, Lucy also visits the Rehabilitation unit at City, the pediatrics and neurology units at Royal University Hospital and the Child and Adolescent unit at the Dubé Centre.

However, there are some places in the hospitals that Lucy simply isn’t allowed to go for various reasons. “It’s tough when people ask if she can come visit them and I have to explain why she can’t,” says Gieni.

What makes the job even more challenging is when Gieni knows that a patient isn’t doing well, especially when it’s a child. “Lucy forms relationships with certain patients and while she may not realize how or why they are gone, she does have her favourites so that can be really hard sometimes. It’s definitely hard on me.”

That being said, Lucy can also help with the more challenging hospital moments too. “Sometimes Lucy is used as a distraction for children about to have a procedure,” explains Gieni. “It’s strange because on the one hand, you know that they are probably hurting, but at the same time Lucy takes their attention away from the procedure for a few minutes. She’s a pretty good distraction.”

Did you know? Lucy has a Facebook page! Follow her adventures here.