COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three-year-old therapy dog Shiloh spends his days at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center cheering up hospital staff.
The Golden Retriever is kind of a big deal — a celebrity of sorts — after a tweet last month ago received 125,000 likes.
Mary Justice has worked in administration for the Wexner Medical Center for 15 years and is Shiloh's handler.
“Very much drawn to people, specifically looking for folks who are having high stress and he offers them a respite and he is just amazing,” said Justice.
Justice is the co-founder of Buckeye Paws, a program that offers comfort to hospital staff in dealing with high stress situations, especially the COVID-19 pandemic.
She says just seeing the smilies on the nurses’ face makes the Buckeye Paws program worth while.
“A lot of stress, a lot of trauma. And he will walk in and they will look up and even with the mask on, I can still tell that they're smiling. Their eyes will smile is a better way to say that. If there's something I can do where I give back to them. A great connection tool between me, the staff and the staff and each other,” said Justice.
There are currently four dogs and four handlers taking part in the Buckeye Paws program.
And Justice said the program will continue to service the needs of others in post pandemic world, outside the hospital setting.
“We would like to have neighborhoods of therapy dogs. So the medical center would have therapy dogs, the university would have therapy dogs for the colleges. We recently got a request from our childhood education center for children who are experiencing anxiety,” said Justice.
Justice encourages others to do their part and thank the thousands of front line workers in our state for their months of sacrifice.
“Yes we've got the vaccine, but stay safe. Continue to wear your mask, continue to social distance. Do all those things you can to help them, because they're trying their best to help you,” says Justice.