Therapy dog makes SSM debut

April 28, 2021

Jefferson, a 195 pound Great Dane, made his initial weekly visit to SSM St. Mary’s Hospital last Wednesday, along with his companion, friend and owner Pat Burke. After greeting members of the nursing staff, Jefferson visited many patients on Wednesday including Cynthia Brown, Malaysha King and Dena Apple White. Everyone who met Jefferson was amazed first at his size and then at his calm demeanor. He is truly a “gentle giant.”

Pat Burke of Woodlawn, who has been volunteering time for himself and Jefferson at SSM Good Samaritan Hospital, decided to also visit St. Mary’s Hospital weekly. Burke explained the back story of the duo of Jefferson and himself. Burke, a Vietnam Veteran who suffers from PTSD, and who was approved for a service dog himself, got Jefferson as a pup in a surprise trip to Missouri by his wife. Jefferson was then trained as a service dog by Jagger’s Doggie Daycare in Mt. Vernon. Burke credits Jefferson with changing his life. “I would not be standing here if it wasn’t for Jefferson.”

Asked about the St. Mary’s dog therapy program, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital President Damon Harbison noted that “dogs like this always bring a smile, not just to patients but to the staff and visitors.” He encouraged others to have therapy dogs trained for the benefit of others.

Pictured above: Vietnam Veteran Pat Burke explaining the story of Jefferson and his own story.

Patient Cynthia Brown was all smiles in her visit with Jefferson.

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