Rescue dog becomes rescuer for cancer survivors

Rescue dog becomes rescuer for cancer survivors

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - A new therapy dog at the 24 Hours in the Canyon Cancer Survivorship Center is helping those going through treatment.

Sam is trained to assist local cancer survivors from the moment they are diagnosed through their recovery.

On his first day interacting with those patients, it’s no surprise that he was very well received.

Sam is a border collie that was rescued, but now it’s his turn to do the rescuing.

With six months of training, he’s learned obedience and what it means to provide therapy service.

“Even five to 15 minutes spent with a therapy dog can really increase someone’s mental well being, as well as their physical well being,” said Brenda Hutson who is Sam’s handler. “We have lower blood pressure. We can lessen anxiety, just the overall mood, bringing a smile to their face, it can be the highlight of their day. We don’t know what someone’s going through and that’s for the survivor and the caregiver.”

Hutson said she knew Sam was born to do this from personal experience.

“This past year, when my mom was going through her chemo and her treatments, he left my side to be by her,” said Hutson. “And I realized the benefit he has had with her and wanted to share that with everyone who is going through a rough time in their life right now.”

In his very first week, Sam has already helped plenty of patients at the Cancer Survivorship Center.

“There’s a lot of studies that have been done, looking at therapy in terms of animal assistance therapy during treatment,” said Ryan Parnell who _____. “We feel like those same things that happen during treatment can happen to our survivors after treatment. You know, that calming effect, the lowering of anxiety, maybe they’re nervous, especially if they come for the first time. They don’t know what to expect. Dogs tend to kind of bring out the best in us and really make us at ease.”

Parnell said it’s important they try different therapies to meet different needs of survivors.

“Not one single thing that we do works for everyone,” said Parnell. “It’s important to be strategic and forward thinking, outside the box, so just having Sam around is another, as I like to think of, as another tool that we have that’s available to survivors.”

Sam will be at the center two to three times a week and will participate in a variety of classes, activities and support groups.

He goes on his first hike with them this weekend at the Palo Duro Canyon.

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