*HSPA Best Feature Photo in 2016

*HSPA Best Feature Photo in 2016

Sienna the Therapy Dog

The minute Randi Nixon pushes the door open at Transcendent Healthcare smiles light up the room. 

“This must be Sienna,” an employee gushes as she immediately sits down and rubs the ears of Nixon’s two-year-old dog. 

Sienna, a Goldendoodle and Great Pyrenees mix, stops and stretches her head out to the employee – she loves getting her ears rubbed.

After saying hello to the other employees that come around to pet Sienna, the couple turn their attention to the residents-- and immediately there’s a change in the air. 

“Look at him smile!” says Transcendent's Activities Coordinator Satina Turner. 

She was speaking of Kenny Bass, a resident at Transcendent, and he wasn’t the only one. 

Before long the pup has paid a visit to everyone in the room, leaving all with a smile. Not everyone pets her, but most do. Sienna's unconditional friendliness is almost irresistible.

“She’s a good girl, you can tell by her eyes,” says Turner to another resident. 

It's the first time the two have visited the long-term and post-acute care facility in Owensville since completing their training in animal therapy through Pet Partners.

Dogs have long been known as wonderful family animals, but they're also considered a great resource in therapy. Pet Partners’ almost 14,000 volunteers throughout the U.S. have proven how animals can improve the physical, emotional and psychological lives of those they serve. 

Just recently dozens of therapy dogs have been working in Orlando after the mass shooting that killed 49 people and injured 53. 

Dogs from all over the country have visited hospitals, schools and parks in Orlando, bringing comfort to a city in shock.

While many of us can intuitively understand the benefits of the positive influence animals can have in our lives, a growing body of research recognizes the impact they can serve in individual and community health.

In an article from the Community Pain Center based in California, it was stated, “researchers found that pain, fatigue, stress, and mood were significantly improved for the patients who received [animal] intervention.” 

For Nixon, it all started when she first adopted Sienna and decided to begin obedience lessons at Doggie Do Right in Fort Branch.

“I didn’t know anything about therapy dogs until those classes,” said Nixon.

“Our trainer told me Sienna had the perfect temperament for therapy -- that she was naturally even-tempered and friendly.”

Nixon said after she began working with the puppy, she found out how much she and Sienna enjoyed helping others.

“I just really enjoy seeing people’s faces light up when they see her.”

Sienna will continue to visit the healthcare facility every Thursday, but she’s not the first to do so.

Betty Armstrong has also been bringing her therapy Dachshunds to the home every other Wednesday. 

“They love animals here, it makes them happy,” said Turner, “You can just see that happiness in the smiles on their faces.”

If interested in learning more about therapy animals and how to volunteer, please visit  petparners.org.