Support Us Button Widget

Charlotte hospital offers fuzzy stress relief

A Novant Health volunteer and her therapy dogs help ease stress for hospital staff and patients.

A woman is smiling in a hospital lobby with a golden retriever by her side.

Joyce Stephens has worked and trained with five therapy dogs since 2001, including Cody.

Photo by CLTtoday

Walking the halls of Novant Health Matthews Medical Center, smiles follow Joyce Stephens and her furry companion everywhere.

Stephens has been a volunteer for the last eight years, serving a unique role. Every week, she brings one of her two dogs, Drew and Cody, into the hospital to brighten someone’s day. Their first stop is the infusion center where people undergoing chemotherapy receive support and hope from a friendly, four-legged visitor.

“Cody’s still really young. He’s still trying to learn all the rules,” said Stephens, revealing the 20-month old English Cream Golden Retriever is still undergoing training as a therapy dog. Cody may have more to learn, but everybody was happy to see him — doctors, nurses, patients, and family members alike.

Editor’s note: Some nurses even had treats for Cody to enjoy.

Charlotte_Therapy Dog_May_2024

Cody received plenty of cuddles from Novant Health hospital staff.

Photo by CLTtoday

Stephens brings her dogs to the hospital because it’s part of her personal story. Her mother underwent chemotherapy treatment several years ago. She discovered their family golden retriever was one of the only ways her mother felt better during her recovery. Stephens later asked the oncologists if they could bring the dog to chemotherapy. They agreed once it became a certified therapy dog. Soon, their dog was providing comfort for other patients too.

Stephens has now owned and worked with certified therapy dogs since 2001.

Charlotte_Therapy dog_May_2024

Joyce Stephens says dogs of various breeds with good temperament around people could be potential therapy dogs.

Photo by CLTtoday

Curious if your furry friend could be a therapy dog? “Organizations like Invisible Paw Prints list the certification requirements.” Stephens emphasized dogs must have basic obedience and will undergo an assessment test. A team will determine if the dog fits the role to be a therapy dog.

Stephens expressed confidence in young Cody. “He’s still really excitable. He needs to learn to focus and to do what he needs to do at work, but he’s getting there.”

More from CLTtoday
The Carolina Theatre will serve as a civic hub when it reopens in 2025, seven years after renovations began.
The festival in downtown Salisbury promises to serve a sweet taste of Southern hospitality.
The street festival will bring Sunday afternoon fun + closures along Camden Road.
CLTtoday phone
Good news for Charlotte
Get the best local news & events sent to your inbox each morning, for free.