One of Piedmont Columbus Regional’s certified pet therapy dogs has lost its battle with cancer. Smudge, an 8-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was active in our hospitals and at the John B. Amos Cancer Center as a member of the Play Paws Pet Therapy program for 6 years. She was the first dog that was instrumental in bringing the program back at the hospital.

“I was her driver and trainer. She was my partner and my best friend, going anywhere that I could. She saved me… after a serious illness and made me want to go back out in the world,” said Michelle Cox, Unit Secretary on the Women’s and Children’s Services floor and Trainer for the PCR Play Paws Pet Therapy program.

Michelle would dress Smudge up for pictures, take her out to events and even traveled with her. Smudge would not only visit PCR, she also went to TSYS, the Columbus Public Library, Columbus State University and many area churches. Smudge was very popular at the annual CMN Radiothon and would help “answer the phones.”

Her main priority was to console patients, students as well of staff members at our hospital— pure love in a tiny body. Patient’s faces would light up with excitement as they heard the pitter-patter of Smudge’s little feet through the halls.

“Her favorite first stop each day was to visit Ms. Penny, our pediatrics manager. Smudge would be lined up waiting to get the mint Penny always had for her,” said Cox.

On April 30, the Pet Partners program was recognized locally. Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson designated that day as National Therapy Animal Day.

A total of 17 certified pet therapy dogs (7-8 teams) from the Play Paws Pet Therapy program rotate and visit Piedmont Columbus Regional to provide therapy type services and lift the spirits of our patients. Dogs go through a strenuous training regimen in order to participate in the program. Noises, elevator etiquette, IV poles, patient awareness, public relations, and observing family members are some of the many parts of their training that they have to go through.