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      Therapy dogs: Man's best medicine

      One-hundred-twenty pounds of pure joy--It's how an Ishpeming resident describes his dog, Sammy. Cliff Heliste also says it's the reason he decided to make Sammy a therapy dog.

      Heâ??s happy with the decision, calling it a "rewarding" experience.

      "It's just wonderful to see a smile whenever the dog walks in the room," said Heliste.

      The five-year-old became a certified pet therapy dog when he turned one. Since then, he regularly visits schools, nursing homes and hospitals. Although therapy dogs are trained to provide affection and comfort, by the looks of his wagging tail, it's safe to say he enjoys the attention as much as the patients.

      "When he walks in the door, he is the star of the day from patients, from nurses, from everybody that meets him," said Judith Gray, a physicianâ??s assistant at Bell Hospital.

      Because of visitor restrictions, Sammy couldn't visit any inpatients at Bell on Monday, but Gray says when he does, within minutes, anxiety, stress, and a bad day seem like a distant memory.

      "He is calming, he is nurturing and he's their best friend," Gray said. "He just looks in their eyes, puts up his paw and you just get a feeling of tranquility and peace."

      And for patients going through difficult procedures, sometimes a little love from man's best friend could be just what the doctor ordered.

      If youâ??re interested in making your companion a therapy dog, visit the SuperiorLand Pet Partners website by clicking here.