Starting this summer, LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Maggie (Christ the King – Newtown, Connecticut) will pay regular visits at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital (YNHPH). YNHPH is an inpatient facility specializing in the rapid assessment and treatment of acute and severe psychiatric symptoms for adults and adolescents.
Beth K. first met LCC Comfort Dog Maggie along with her sister, LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Addie (Immanuel Lutheran – Danbury, Connecticut) and four other Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs: Hannah (LCC Staff), Luther (Permanently Deployed Serving with the Saints), Ruthie (LCC Staff) and Rufus (St. Mark Lutheran – Edmond, Oklahoma) on the steps of First Lutheran Church in Boston, Massachusetts. The dogs were in town to minister on the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing. Beth was immediately impacted by the comfort dogs and their ability to help people connect in a calm and non-threatening way.
A long-time friend of Maggie’s handler, Cathy S., Beth, is now Assistant Director, Psychiatric Emergency & Inpatient Services at YNHPH. Beth was convinced that Maggie’s presence could work wonders with her patients, and advocated for Maggie to make visits to some of the units she oversees. Cathy and another of Maggie’s handlers, Anita H., both felt the calling, and have been credentialed for YNHPH visits with Maggie. Through Cathy and Anita's dedication, Newtown Comfort has been honored to serve YNHPH regularly since July 2018.
Maggie’s visits are high points for staff and patients alike. During a scheduled two hour visit, Maggie and her handler, accompanied by a unit clinician, are able to reach nearly 80 people bringing the comfort and compassion of Christ. Even before she reaches the units, Maggie interacts with security guards, people in waiting rooms, and staff who stop what they are doing for a golden pet or hug. She often elicits comments like, “You don’t know how much I needed this today, Maggie!”
On unit, Maggie works mostly in common areas bringing people together who may be dealing with issues of isolation due to depression or other challenges. People who are resistant to groups or social situations are now interacting with each other and with Maggie and recognize that a shared interest in a gentle dog is enough to start a pleasant conversation.
Beth has kindly sent us the following comments she has received from patients and staff. As you read through them, we believe you’ll get a sense that Beth was right: Maggie is working wonders…and you just might even get a few tears in your eyes.
“I always love to watch a visit with Cathy and Maggie. The healing that occurs during their brief contact is priceless. I watch shy, anxious teens calm; loud, energetic, fast moving teens become gentle; and isolated, withdrawn teens come to life and engage.”
-A Member of the Nursing Staff, Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatient Unit
Comments from Patients on the Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatient Unit as relayed to a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist:
“Maggie made me feel more comfortable.”
“Maggie helped me get over missing my own dog.”
“Maggie made my day just a little bit better.”
“Maggie is very sweet and she didn’t get tired of me petting her.”
“I love Maggie.”
“I wish I had a Maggie in my life.”
“I have witnessed, countless times, dementia patients who barely engage come alive when Maggie is around! Maggie is gentle and comforting for many patients and staff on our unit.”
-Occupational Therapist, Older Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Unit
“Maggie the comfort dog visits 2 behavioral health units on our campus twice a month. Patients, who usually resist attending groups, or are difficult to engage in conversation, are receptive to getting out of bed and heading down to the group room to spend time with Maggie. Patients smile, ask questions, and reminisce about their own pets. Patients pat, pet, rub and scratch Maggie while Maggie patiently visits each person. The mood is lighter, conversation is animated, and staff joins the group to visit with Maggie also. Each week, patients will ask 'Is this the day that Maggie visits?' Anita and Maggie provide a meaningful service to our patients; creating joy by their presence and giving comfort to each person who visits with them."
-Certified Therapeutic Recreation Therapist, General & Older Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Units
“I could say many things about Maggie; about how she brings comfort, love and understanding in a small but large way. Maggie’s ability to bring sunshine at dark times for children is something we may never understand but get the pleasure of seeing. We thank Maggie and her owner for the large support she gives to everyone; and, in return, Maggie wants nothing but love and head rubs.”
-Milieu Counselor, Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatient Unit
“Maggie brings a bright ray of sunshine every time she enters our hospital – not only for the patients but for staff as well. We are so blessed to have her visit us!!!”
-Data Analyst, Administration
Comments from Patients on the Young Adult and Adult Mood Disorders Psychiatric Inpatient Units as relayed to a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist:
“Maggie is very sweet and gentle. She went to every person and accepted our petting.”
“Maggie made my day.”
“Best visitor I had today.”
“Maggie was very calming to me.”
“We all love Maggie.”
“Can Maggie come more often?”
“Can Maggie live on the unit?”
“Maggie is an amazing asset on WS3. She has an unparalleled ability to reach our patients. From long-term patients, to hard-to-reach patients, she has the ability to help these patients cope with their symptoms. I’m very grateful for her and Cathy.”
-Occupational Therapist, Young Adult/Transitional Age Youth Unit
“Everyone attends group when Maggie comes around! Patients often miss their pets and being able to see a beautiful friendly dog has brightened their day. Smiles all around!”
-Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Adolescent and Young Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Units
“Maggie has been a hit on WS2. Patients and staff smile when she arrives. Some very quiet patients come out of their shell in Maggie’s presence. A very good thing!”
-Registered Nurse, Adult Mood Disorders Unit
“Maggie has brought something special to our patients. We appreciate the time she spends on unit. We also appreciate the empathy for our patients, efforts, and sacrifice of her owner/trainer in providing this wonderful experience.”
-Licensed Clinical Social Worker, General Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Unit