April 10, 2019 - Sometimes a wagging tail is just what the doctor ordered.
Just watch Buster, a chocolate lab, as he makes the rounds at the Southeast
Georgia Health System
Camden Campus. Or ask James “Buddy” McGhin, Buster’s owner, who says,
“I remember walking into a patient’s room with Buster. Suddenly,
this patient who wasn’t cooperating with nurses began smiling and
McGhin adds, “When Buster comes into a room, the situation completely
turns around. Children stop crying, adults are less nervous and staff
are happy. It makes everyone’s day.”
Brightening the hospital halls is all in a day’s work for this dynamic
duo, who volunteer in the Health System’s
Pet Therapy program. Participants in this program visit patients at the
Camden Campus and
Senior Care Centers in Brunswick or St. Marys. The program is open to anyone with a well-behaved
dog who is certified through Therapy Dogs International. Volunteers must
complete an application, attend orientation and commit to 100 service
For McGhin, it’s well worth the time. “I receive the bigger
blessing. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever
Kristin Doll, CAVS, the Health System’s director of
Volunteer Services, echoes McGhin’s thoughts on the transformative power of pet therapy.
“Our therapy dogs are a vital part of our volunteer team, benefiting
patients, guests and team members. The program speaks to our commitment
to making the patient experience the best it can be.”
Doll recalled the time a therapy dog was placed next to a patient in a
coma. “The patient began moving their fingers to pet the dog!”
Another time, a nurse was having a difficult day after a patient passed
away. As she cuddled a therapy dog, Doll describes, “I could almost
feel the sadness leaving her.”
Making the Rounds
Buster works his charm throughout the hospital. He circulates in the lobby,
easing tension for people waiting to have a procedure. He’s particularly
helpful to a regular patient, a young man in a wheelchair. “They
look forward to seeing each other,” McGhin says.
As he makes his rounds, Buster distributes unconditional love to patients
in pediatrics, maternity, cancer care, cardiac rehabilitation, the emergency
room and other areas. Buster’s presence is especially poignant for
Senior Care Center residents. For many, including an elderly man who can’t
speak, “It’s the biggest event of the week. He just lights
up when Buster arrives,” describes McGhin.
Furry Friends Needed
Buster and Buddy McGhin are great ambassadors, but more volunteers and
therapy dogs are always needed, especially as dogs retire out of the program.
The need is especially urgent at the Camden Campus and the Senior Care
Center-St. Marys, where Buster is the only therapy dog.
To join these remarkable volunteers making a difference in our community,
contact Doll at 912-466-3157 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the online form at
sghs.org/About-Us/Volunteer/Pet-Therapy. To learn how to certify your dog, visit Therapy Dogs International at
tdi-dog.org or call Ruth Barker, director of the local TDI chapter, at 912-634-8156 or