Positively Richmond: Four-legged comfort for VCU Massey Cancer Center patients

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Renny is making her rounds at VCU Massey Cancer Center, and you know she is answering her calling when you see her in action.

“She’s pretty awesome,” says Jessica Gray, Renny’s handler and the palliative care nurse manager at Massey. “It’s amazing every day to watch her work.”

Renny (right, as a puppy) came to Massey from the group Canine Companions for Independence. (Photo: Jessica Gray)

Gray says she has witnessed magic since the four-legged healer’s first official day on the job May 9, 2017.

Patient Robert Duncan asked to have a visit with Renny.

“She just takes it in stride, doesn’t she?” Duncan chats with Gray, as Renny hops up into his hospital bed.

Explains Gray, “She has at times on the patient’s request gotten in bed with people and layed with people and snuggled with them. She even lends a paw sometimes when people are getting blood work or other painful procedures done that they just need a little bit of extra support.”

Renny became a full-time member of the palliative care team to meet a growing demand from patients for this unique therapy. Renny is also trained to open doors and close drawers.

Gray says some of what the two-year-old offers is just natural intuition.

“She’s able to often times pick out the person that needs her most and go right up to that person,” Gray describes the gift Renny gives.

The Yellow Labrador-Golden Retriever’s calming presence can also help to decrease pain and anxiety.

Gray says there was a year-long application process with the group Canine Companions for Independence to acquire Renny for Massey, and it was definitely worth the wait.

“For the patients as well as their families who are struggling with life-threatening illnesses, it’s been a great thing to have a constant friendly furry face around.”

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