Olive, MGH Pet Therapy dog
Olive, the newest MGH Volunteer Services Pet Therapy dog.

“Our Pet Therapy Program dogs have this instinct,” says Jackie Nolan, director of MGH Volunteer Services. “It’s like they know they are here to make people feel better. And they do – staff and patients alike get such comfort from them, and they feel connected to them.”

For years, MGH Volunteer Services Pet Therapy dogs have played an important role within the hospital offering comfort and connection to patients and staff. Now, the program is expanding as Olive, a Samoyed from Beacon Hill, joins five veteran pet therapy pups: Birdy, Denny, Hayden, Phoebe and Twinkie.

Phoebe is the most senior therapy dog, having been at MGH for nearly seven years. Originally a rescue dog, the part golden retriever and part German shepherd is often seen around the hospital in humorous costumes – her wardrobe includes a nurse, a seal and a beach-goer – sparking smiles in the people she encounters.

"One of our team's elderly patients had been feeling quite down from having to stay in the hospital longer than initially anticipated,” says Louise Breen, MD, an intern in the Med-Peds Residency program. “When Phoebe visited White 8, the patient broke out into such a big smile! She seemed less worried and more comfortable after Phoebe spent some time resting her head on the edge of the bed and letting her pet her. I'm very appreciative of the unique impact Phoebe and her owner made on this patient's mindset – among many other patients too!"

Nolan says two more dogs are expected to join the MGH pack in the coming months.

“We are so thankful for these pups. We just can’t get enough,” she says.