28 May 2008

Podiatrist's Poodle Sits with Patients

Jaden is the "therapy dog" at the New Century Podiatry office at 18564 Route 11 run by Dr. James P. Pelletier. The 6-year-old miniature poodle has been working at the office for about two years. "It allows me to see patients who are upset or frightened," he said. "He has a calming effect."

"I've never seen a dog more dedicated to his master," said Janice A. Crabb, a patient from Black River. "He's so well-behaved. He comes to the door to greet me and then goes to find Dr. Pelletier."

When Dr. Pelletier works on patients' feet, Jaden takes his lap position and patiently waits for the procedure to conclude as patients pet him. Sometimes the dog is lulled to sleep. "It's unbelievable how many patients make their appointments around him," said Yolanda M. Pelletier, wife of Dr. Pelletier and New Century's office manager. "They say, 'I'll be back if Jaden is going to be here.'"

Many times, Jaden — named after Mrs. Pelletier's jade jewelry that he took a liking to as a puppy — isn't in the office because he makes rounds to area nursing homes with Dr. Pelletier. "All the nursing homes encouraged us to take Jaden because the patients really enjoy it," Dr. Pelletier said. "The patients in the nursing homes sometimes handle him kind of rough because of their coordination. But he lets them flip him and everything."

The Pelletiers' daughter, Samantha, 12, is responsible for Jaden's career track. She noticed the Web site of a not-for-profit Syracuse-based organization that advocates for therapy pets. That organization, Sunshine Friends Inc., has 160 volunteers who bring their pets to visit residents at about 45 facilities in Onondaga, Oswego, Cayuga and Cortland counties.

Samantha, who hopes to be a veterinarian, began teaching Jaden things such as to sit on command, not to bark and not to be startled by noises and people's reactions. Mrs. Pelletier said Samantha followed guidelines posted for the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test, which is used as a screening tool at many medical facilities. The family hopes to take Jaden to Syracuse soon so he can take the Good Citizen test at the Syracuse chapter of the AKC.

[Source: Watertown Daily Times]