Northern Light Health brings in a therapy pet

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 5:19 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Folks at Northern Light Health are getting visits from a furry friend.

Koda is a therapy dog and official volunteer at Northern Light.

Over the years, he’s had multiple gigs around town such as visiting libraries and patients in healthcare facilities.

But, when COVID hit, Koda had a new calling.

Stacey Coventry is director of Volunteer and Community Development at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center.

She’s also Koda’s owner and handler.

She notices a real difference in the mood around the offices when Koda arrives.

“We were visiting with patients, but one day, we got a really special call from one of the leaders in the emergency department. It was at the height of the pandemic. They were really having a rough week with a lot of things going on through the emergency department, and when they asked staff, you know, what can we do, we have EAP services and all of the work-related services available, but what more can we do for you? And unanimously, they all said we would love a pet therapy visit,” said Coventry.

Now, Koda makes his rounds at multiple Northern Light campuses and departments, bringing smiles to faces.

“The minute Koda walks in; the mood instantly changes. I think every facility should have a dog as a welcome greeter because it just snaps us right out of our mood. Whatever our train of thought might be, if we’re stressed, if we had a bad or difficult interaction, Koda comes in happy to see you. He’s just gonna want to spread joy through tail wags,” said Coventry.

When departments need a “Code Koda,” he’s happy to respond.

Patient Service Representative Travis Miller returned to working in health care in the last year.

“It’s been difficult. It’s been stressful, but opportunities in moments like this, that just kind of takes your mind off it for those few moments and helps you kind of rethink and kind of reassess everything. It just makes it worthwhile. Having Koda, it’s like my grandkids. You just get excited when you see him and sad when he leaves. I think it’s a great program, and I think it should be incorporated in every aspect of anything high stress related. It’s nice that we have this at Northern Light, and I’m grateful that they do it,” said Miller.

“Dogs connect us and kind of reminds us all to pause and go through life with that sort of perspective that we can all do something to make everyone’s day a little brighter,” added Coventry.