Golden doodle supports cancer patients
BUTLER TWP — It often takes more than 10 minutes for Henrietta to make it from the parking lot to her office to start her work day.
She is stopped by people who want to pet her, rub her belly and sometimes give her treats.
Stacy Meyer, oncology patient navigator at Butler Health System Cancer Support Services, said Henrietta, or “Henny” for short, is the most amazing therapy dog in training.
“She is like a light switch,” Meyer said. “A therapy dog helps bring blood pressure down, it helps with anxiety. People’s whole mood changes when they see her.”
The BHS Foundation purchased Henny, a golden doodle, when she was just 8 months old. She turned 1 at the end of September, and Meyer, who is her handler, said she has been going through training to become a certified cancer support dog.
“She is an employee, but I constantly remind her I'm her mother,” Meyer said. “She comes home with me and she is definitely a family project.”
Meyer said the health system used to bring therapy dogs to Cancer Support Services and other treatment wings prior to 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to it. She wrote a proposal to get a therapy dog who could work in-house with cancer patients, and after organizing two golf outings to raise money for her, Meyer brought Henny home.
According to Meyer, it is shown that therapy animals help improve patients’ moods, which can lead to better treatment outcomes.
“When people come in for chemo or radiation, she is between their legs and they are petting, and it's almost like they forget why they are there,” Meyer said. “When it comes to connecting with the patients, they could be talking to her and the next thing you know everything starts coming out.”
Henny is still in training at the Butler Dog Training Association, because she couldn’t become certified until she was at least 1 year old. She is still being trained, but comes to work with Meyer where she can comfort patients in the offices.
Rosie Hanna became a cancer support group volunteer while her husband was undergoing cancer treatment several years ago. She said her husband liked having dogs around, which was a sentiment that has since been echoed by people working in the cancer unit.
“Not only do the patients love her, but the staff love her,” Hanna said. “Doctors are suffering such great burnout because of what has happened over the last couple years, so for them to be able to have a little nuzzle from Henny is an important part to how they take their day and take care of patients.”
Breeze Menchyk, a cancer patient at BHS, said she is happy that Meyer had the idea to get a cancer support dog, because of the relief she offers.
“Sometimes, it's hard for people to ask for help, so what Stacy does is huge,” Menchyk said. “There is a special place in heaven for Stacy Meyer. She is absolutely adored by everyone.”
When they are not at work, Meyer takes care of Henny at her home, feeds her and takes her to veterinarian appointments.
Meyer said in addition to having Henny as a companion for herself and cancer patients, she is a good reminder of her namesake, who was a big ally to Cancer Support Services.
“Henrietta was named after a beautiful person and friend Henry Sinopoli,” Meyer said. “He loved his dog so much that his ringtone was his dog, so we wanted to get a dog and name it after him because he loved dogs so much.”