Clinic facilities

Cleveland Clinic Mercy Medical Restarts Caring Canines Therapy Program

CANTON – When Dr. Richie Rich makes his rounds in Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospitalhe gives those he meets the perfect remedy: a reason to smile.

The labradoodle is part of the hospital Benevolent dogs volunteer therapy dog ​​program.

Once a week, Richie and her owner, Randall Rich, greet patients, hospital staff and visitors who are lucky enough to cross their path.

“His job is just to do what he does: make people smile, reduce their anxiety,” Rich said, adding that he and Richie have been with Caring Canines for seven years since the labradoodle was 2 years old.

The Caring Canines program is operational again at the hospital, returning in August after being suspended at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. But some canine teams have not returned and the hospital is looking for volunteers who want participate because the program brings joy to patients.

Labradoodle Dr. Richie Rich greets a visitor in the lobby of the Cleveland Clinic Mercy hospital in Canton during a recent visit as part of the hospital's Caring Canines volunteer therapy dog ​​program.  Richie Rich greets patients, hospital staff and visitors.

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“We had nearly 200 canine teams across the company before the pandemic,” said Stephanie Williams, volunteer services manager at Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital. “We have less than 100 now.”

Cleveland Clinic started the Caring Canines program in 2004. Prior to integrating with Cleveland Clinic, Mercy Medical Center had a Mercy Pet Patrol program that began in 1994.

Labradoodle Dr. Richie Rich visits the Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital in Canton with owner Randall Rich.  Richie Rich greets patients, workers and visitors as part of the hospital's Caring Canines volunteer therapy dog ​​program.

Williams said the program accommodates a variety of breeds.

“We are looking for dogs that are friendly, welcoming and not embarrassed by physical contact,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to relieve people of stress.”

Cassandra Keen and her son Kyle, 4, of Perry Township stop in a hallway to visit labradoodle Dr Richie Rich and owner Randall Rich at the Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital in Canton.  Richie Rich greets patients, workers and visitors as part of the hospital's Caring Canines volunteer therapy dog ​​program.

They are not service dogs

Caring Canines are not service dogs, however, applicants must be trained, tested and certified as therapy dogs by an outside agency.

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Randall Rich and labradoodle Dr. Richie Rich stop to visit Mary Greer in the lobby of the Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital in Canton.  Richie Rich greets patients, workers and visitors as part of the hospital's Caring Canines volunteer therapy dog ​​program.

Rich said he and his wife, Jane, originally bought Richie for their son, Chad, who has an intellectual disability.

Labradoodles are hypoallergenic and non-dumb dogs.

“I knew I wanted him to be a therapy dog,” Rich said.

Labradoodle Dr. Richie Rich visits the Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital in Canton once a week as part of the hospital's Caring Canines volunteer therapy dog ​​program.  It welcomes patients, workers and visitors.

Rich said that after retiring from Bristol Myers Squibb in 2013 he found he could only take a limited amount of rides; only so much grass that needed to be mowed.

“My friends said, ‘You have to have a hobby,'” he laughed. “It turned out to be my hobby.”

Rich noted that his father, Orlando, owned a canine obedience school, Canton All Breeds, in the 1950s.

After discovering Caring Canines, Rich enrolled Richie in a therapy certification program. Screening potential therapy dogs includes measuring their reactions to noise, people, and the types of equipment and activities found in a hospital.

“Anything that can happen in a hospital,” Rich said.

He limits Richie’s visits to about 90 minutes a week.

“He’s getting old, I don’t want to wear him down,” he said.

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Canton's Josh Strouble stops to meet labradoodle Dr. Richie Rich and owner Randall Rich in a waiting room at the Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital in Canton.  Richie Rich greets patients, workers and visitors as part of the hospital's Caring Canines volunteer therapy dog ​​program.

An empathetic and caring dog

Rich noted that Richie is an empathetic and intuitive dog.

“He can choose the person in the room who needs the most attention and attention,” he said.

As the team enters a waiting room, patients and nurses smile at the sight.

Patient Josh Strouble even got down on one knee to greet Richie.

“I have a dog too,” he said.

Rich was asked how he benefits from participating in Caring Canines.

“Just to see people going through a stressful time, to see them smile,” he said.

For more information about the Caring Canines program, visit www.clevelandclinic.org/volunteer.

Contact Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @cgoshayREP

Receptionist Brenda Scheetz greets labradoodle Dr. Richie Rich and owner Randall Rich at the Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital in Canton.  Richie Rich greets patients, workers and visitors as part of the hospital's Caring Canines volunteer therapy dog ​​program.