Volume 75, Number 48 | April 19 - 25 2006

A Salute To Volunteers

A special Villager supplement

Villager photos by Bob Kreizel

Above, Villagers Jean Krampner and husband Herbert got a visit from Chablis, a certified pet therapy dog at St. Vincent’s hospital. Below, Edna Wolf rolls in the specialist.

A bit of Chablis; it’s just what the doctor ordered

By Bob Kreizel

Edna Wolf, director of the Pet-Assisted Therapy Program at St Vincent’s, and Chablis, her 14-year-old toy poodle, play a vital role as a volunteer duo at the Greenwich Village hospital, helping lift the spirits of patients and staff alike.

Requests for a dog visit usually come from the floor nurse or from a patient’s doctor.

“Sometimes even the patients call me directly and ask for a dog visitor,” Wolf said. Other times the volunteer team go up to a floor and ask the nurse in charge if they can “freelance” and go room to room.

“We knock on the door and 90 percent of the time the patient wants to see a dog,” Wolf explained.

Chablis has been a pet therapy volunteer since the program first started in 1997, and is one of the few original dogs still in the program.

“She is one of the only ones left, really,” Wolf said. Chablis, who has gotten on in years, now makes the rounds in a wheelchair, but once arriving bedside, springs into patients’ laps to give them the full dose of licks and tail wagging.

The program now has 25 to 30 dogs. They must pass a four-week training program, one session every Saturday for two hours. The program is open to all breeds and the dogs must understand basic obedience commands and not be startled by sudden loud noises.

According to Wolf, St. Vincent’s was the first hospital in New York State to allow certified pet therapy dogs to be used.

“Hospitals used to only allow seeing-eye dogs for the blind,” Wolf noted.

Wolf started working at the hospital in 1958 as a physical therapist before taking over the pet therapy program.

One of the perks of the job, Chablis occasionally gets to rub paws with local celebrities. She and Wolf recently had lunch with Eartha Kitt.

“She has two black poodles and they put Chablis in the middle and they called it a golden Oreo cracker,” Wolf recalled.

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