Fischer-Rose is a Libra, “definitely a Libra,” said Tom Watson, her handler and companion. However, he also says that the therapy they perform together in the Wood River Valley is entirely her magic show.
St. Luke’s Wood River gave the team kudos by awarding the duo the “Above and Beyond” award at the hospital’s annual volunteer luncheon early this spring.
“One patient on pain medication said, ‘I don’t want my medication today,’” Watson said. “She said ‘I’m going to give all my pain to Fischer-Rose.’”
Watson said Fischer-Rose’s ability to connect with people is innate. He said he first tried to volunteer with her as a reading dog (for rambunctious children to read to), but she would attempt to engage with the kids, distracting them from their letters. He said that’s what makes her such a good therapy dog.
Watson said some patients with whom Fischer-Rose interacts are in so much pain they can’t even move.
“Then they start reaching to pet Fischer,” he said.
He said that, especially for elderly patients, the movement they put into interacting with Fischer-Rose “limbers them up” for a few hours after therapy with Fischer-Rose ends.
“Then the nurses can work more with the patient,” he said.
But there’s one story he told that trumps them all.
“The interaction with a patient I won’t ever forget,” he said, “was when Fischer-Rose looked a woman right in the eye and she started crying. Sometimes there’s no petting involved. She was born to do this. Dogs lower your heart rate.”
Fischer-Rose didn’t say much during an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express on Friday afternoon, but this reporter dubbed the experience “cool” and just what the doctor ordered.
“It’s such a great diversion from what patients are here for,” said Deb Hobart, manager of volunteer services at the hospital. “The hospital staff just loves Fischer-Rose. Everyone stops to say hello.”
Watson said Fischer-Rose’s experience volunteering has also transformed her.
“She’s gone from being a 6-year-old hundred-percent puppy to being calmer at home,” he said.
How did she begin her service to the community? According to Watson, they were sitting near the Town Square in Ketchum when it happened.
“Somebody met her and suggested we should do this,” he said. “She nailed the [hospital’s certification] exam.”
Watson said Fischer-Rose is named after Fischer skis and found roses.
“She makes you laugh when you’re ready to spit and cry,” he said. “She’s calmed my spirit down in so many ways.”
Watson said she’s been doing her job for about a year. On average, she serves health to the valley one or two days a week.