Father/daughter team bring joy to patients at Ascension Via Christi with therapy dogs

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Gerald "Bub" Isaacson says dogs have always been a part of his family.

"The kids always had dogs and we also had horses when they were growing up," Isaacson said sitting next to his daughter, Kelli Chase. "Her and her sister both grew up with dogs and basically labs and she came to the same affection of dogs as her dad."

The two are sitting in the lobby of Ascension Via Christi St. Teresa Friday with two big golden dogs at their feet. The slightly larger one, Trey, is snoozing at Kelli's feet. The slightly fluffier and more energetic one, Tucker, is relaxing near Bub. It's a break before work begins.

Kelli says Trey's relaxed demeanor is essential for what he does. She works in behavioral health with Ascension Via Christi at St. Joseph and Trey helps with the adolescent population she serves.

"I've been a social worker for a long time and therapy dogs are very therapeutic for the population that I serve and so I always wanted to get a therapy dog," Kelli said. She explained how Trey went through a year-long training process while she had to take a week-long full-time class. There were also other stints of training and tests to get here.

"I can see some kids that are in a lot of distress and you bring him around and it kind of goes away," Kelli says.

Tucker has similar responsibilities as a therapy dog. Bub said both Tucker and he went through a certification process and they see everyone at St. Teresa.

"Tucker and I come out to St. Teresa and we visit the whole hospital basically. We go to the OR, the ER and we go to all three floors and we visit patients in their rooms and we do a lot of interaction with the staff as well because they like therapy just as much as the patients do," Bub said.

While neither say the other influenced their decision to get a therapy dog, both say they love what they do and they love watching how their dogs can help others.

Bub recounts one time when Tucker was able to help a three-year-old child.

"He was so retracted from everything and so when we'd go into a room, he would just lean up against the wall and just could not communicate with Tucker or anybody else. Over a period of time we've worked with him individually and we finally got him to come around," Bub said. "The highlight of the whole situation was I took this young man out in the hallway with Tucker and I had an extra leash with me, a long leash. And I gave the short leash to him and he got to walk Tucker for the first time."

"That kid, I've never seen him smile so big in my life," Bub said.

Once Kelli and Bub finished explaining Trey and Tucker, it was time to go to work and show what they could do. Both well-behaved, yet very friendly, Tucker and Trey walked the halls of three different floors at Ascension Via Christi St. Teresa and spent a little time with patients there.

"I'm your friend, Tucker. Remember me?" one patient said as Tucker walked in the room with Bub. A smile immediately covered her face.

"Hi Trey, how are you?" another patient asks as the dog comes up. Nurses and doctors take time to stop too saying the dogs bring them joy just as much as the patients.

It's clearly a little celebration when it's time for the therapy dogs to come around.

Kelli and Bub say some patients have seen both Tucker and Trey at different times and at different locations and when they tell one about the other, the two can share how they're related.

"They're cousins," Bub tells people explaining Kelli and Trey. "They're buds."