Therapy Dog Charms Hospital Donors

Jul 18, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

The star of a Southern Ocean Medical Center Donor Appreciation Reception last Thursday was not one of the generous hospital benefactors or one of the dedicated staff members. Although these people were honored at the event, the so-called “Mick Jagger” on the scene was a gentle golden retriever named Dakota.

Dakota, who has his own Facebook page (Dakota DeSalvo), is a “well-trained, smart, caring, comforting Therapy Dog who loves people, playing, reading and working,” according to promotional literature.

Owned and loved by Bob and Rosemary DeSalvo of Waretown, Dakota spends one day a week at SOMC comforting patients. He also makes regular visits to nursing homes, schools and other medical centers throughout Ocean County.

Bob DeSalvo, in a presentation to the some 50 people on hand, told attendees Dakota has worked near-miracles with patients. The dog’s soothing presence got one man’s blood pressure down to levels necessary to perform a hospital procedure. In another case, an autistic child spoke for the first time ever, saying “treat” after repeatedly being shown how to give Dakota a snack.

The retriever was totally comfortable with the attention of admirers at the reception, held in the hospital’s Beach Plum Conference Room at dinnertime. He barked only to let “mom” Rosemary know he needed to go outside to do his business.

To become a therapy dog, Dakota went through a training and testing program conducted by Therapy Dogs Inc. On Thursday he sat calmly and patiently while other speakers, including new hospital CEO Regina Foley and hospital board of trustees President Thomas Dolan, discussed SOMC upgrades to the emergency department and applauded the work of 400 volunteers.  —G.T.

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