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 3-year-old 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 for the past year and a half, 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 Thursday afternoons. Together they visit the pediatric unit, emergency department, various waiting areas, patient floors, some cardiac and surgical areas, all the while making lots of stops in the hallways to visit with team members and visitors.
The duo also visits other hospitals as well as schools and reading programs at the public library.
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.”
Dennis is thankful to everyone who shows much love toward Sampson. Their appreciation also helps him with all the stresses in his own life as a volunteer.
But what does Sampson think of volunteering? Dennis describes it as a calm excitement with ears up and tail wagging.
“He loves to give kisses to the staff. He does also have a sense for who is having a rough day more than others and tends to hang with them more.”