Pete the therapy dog loves to help out |

Pete the therapy dog loves to help out

Pete Fowler
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Sitting in a room at Valley View Hospital, Joan Anderson missed her two dogs Duchess and Duke.

No one was allowed to bring them in for a visit. But Pete the therapy dog was glad to lend a paw.

“It’s just an inspiration,” Anderson said.

Anderson seemed happy to feed him some treats and shake his paw. Pete showed off his signature trick ” the whispering bark.

Pete’s an English Golden Retriever, which is why his fur nearly looks white. On this day he was sporting a new summer do with his freshly cleaned and silky-soft fur cut short for summer. He wore his purple-and-gold trimmed sash and badge around his neck identifying him as a therapy dog.

Pete received a full body hug and was petted by almost everyone who saw him as he strutted through the hospital’s halls. He was a hound for all the attention and even posed for a photographer.

Pete’s visits can distract patients from boredom and pain, said Wendy Tennis, VVH’s Planetree coordinator. Pete also comforts patients missing their own dogs. His soft fur can even get people who are having trouble moving to sit up and pet him.

“The patients just light up and it’s really, really fun,” Tennis said. “It’s good for the spirit, especially for people with a history with dogs.”

He’s also a big hit with the hospital staff.

Pete pulls on his leash and wags his tail when he arrives at the hospital doors, eager for another day on the job.

“He does love it,” said his owner, Karen Flamand. “He loves the attention.”

In April, the hospital awarded Pete a Spirit of Caring Award for Best Therapy Dog. Becoming the therapy dog was no walk in the park.

Pete endured rigorous testing to be allowed into the hospital. He had to prove in a simulation that he wouldn’t be easily distracted or react inappropriately to lots of people, equipment, smells and noises in the hospital environment that dogs aren’t normally around. The testing is no joke because he’s actually insured should something go wrong. But he’s well-trained and gentle as can be.

Flamand even taught him how to bark almost silently. She used a combination of whispering and treats.

Pete doesn’t get a paycheck. He’s employed as a volunteer through the nonprofit Heeling Partners of the Roaring Fork Valley. The group’s president and treasurer, Trish Hittinger, said the organization also does a program called Paws to Read that uses dogs to help motivate students to read. The group has about eight active dog and handler teams that visit Valley View Hospital and schools in Glenwood Springs and Rifle. The first dog visited the hospital in 2002. There are about another eight dog and handler teams in training.

When he’s not at work, Pete enjoys hiking Red Mountain and chasing fish. He’s been known to jump into a pond and swim for an hour while going after fish.

“He’s obsessed with fish,” Flamand said.

But he never catches them. Nor does he fetch toys.

“He’s a golden retriever that doesn’t retrieve, so I just call him a golden,” Flamand said.

Heeling Partners has the demand to expand and is looking for more volunteers. Visit or call Hittinger at 945-5943 for more information.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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