Dennis Loves Volunteering with Sampson by His Side

Dec 7 2023

For Dennis Satkowski, one of our pet therapy volunteers, it’s pure joy seeing the faces of patients and team members light up as Sampson enters the scene.

“When they see us coming toward them, they know we are helping in our own way,” Dennis says.

He proudly takes Sampson, his German Shepherd certified therapy dog, into facilities in our Toledo market.

“The best feeling I get is happiness when I go and visit the staff, patients or guests.”

Having volunteered now since 2021, Dennis feels he has a whole new perspective on the medical field that, as a patient, he never knew about.

“Seeing how much the entire hospital staff cares about what they are doing and how much hard work they all put into their jobs, it’s really opened my eyes.”

Dennis takes Sampson around Mercy Health — St. Anne Hospital and Mercy Health — St. Vincent Medical Center most Thursdays. Together, they visit the pediatric unit, emergency department, various waiting areas, patient floors and some cardiac and surgical areas, all the while making lots of stops in the hallways to visit with team members and visitors.

Volunteering and having a pet therapy dog stems from Dennis taking his shepherds to visit his wife’s grandmother while she was in assisted living. Her reaction and that of other residents and staff made an impression and motivated him.

“I still have a full-time job that has provided for my family,” he says. “But now that they are grown, I find myself wanting to stay busy, and I love training and working with dogs. So, having a therapy dog to help others is the path that seemed right to me.”

Over the summer, the pair also attended a reading program for children at the public library along with visits to local schools and senior centers in Michigan.

For Dennis, the most important thing about their visits is bringing comfort to those who need it.

One of the most memorable experiences he’s had with Sampson was during a visit to St. Vincent’s Medical Center. A pastor asked if they could visit with a young girl who had just lost her mother. When the duo arrived in the room, several family members were present. Yet, Sampson immediately went right to her without being prompted to do so.

Dennis watched in awe as Sampson sat beside her, leaned in so she knew he was there to support her, and, after a few minutes, gave her a kiss on the cheek. It brought a smile to her face and she turned to give him a big hug. And Sampson stayed there with her for as long as she needed a hug.

“It was like he just knew who needed him the most in that moment,” Dennis shares. “I don’t know how he does it, but he has an ability to sense who needs him. I’ve seen it many times, and it still amazes me to watch him bring smiles to patients or their families.” 

Dennis and Sampson plan to continue their visits to our facilities throughout the holidays and into the new year.

“After two years of volunteering, Sampson and I are still excited every time we visit,” Dennis says. “We look forward to bringing smiles and comfort to everyone we meet.”

This holiday season, we are celebrating by spreading the good news! Read more feel-good stories, like this one, that feature our team members, patients and the wonderful communities we are blessed to serve.

Also, learn about our volunteer opportunities as well as the health care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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