MURPHY, A PORTUGUESE WATER DOG and certified therapy dog, made a friend when he started visiting a young boy with stage IV glioblastoma in 2016. Murphy met the youngster through the pet therapy program at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York.
As the boy grew sicker, Murphy’s owner Michelle Sharf—a former oncology nurse who became a pet therapy volunteer three years ago—brought Murphy to visit him regularly. One day, Sharf knocked at his door to find doctors surrounding the boy. She apologized and told them that she and Murphy would come back later. No, the doctors told Sharf. They would come back later.
“Literally, all the physicians left the room so that we could spend time with the boy,” Sharf says. “They realized how important it was because they saw him light up as soon as that door opened.”
Therapy dogs and their handlers have visited hospitals for decades, and hospital staff and patients attest to their benefits. Researchers are now exploring the effects of these animals in cancer care.