“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.” – Thom Jones.

Furry Friends Therapy Dogs are once again visiting patients at Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center, much to the delight of patients and staff alike.

Bandon residents Rose Anne Gates and Jeannie Scholl are bringing their canine companions, Queen, a Queensland healer (also known as an Australian cattle dog), and Beaux, a standard poodle, once a month to visit patients at the hospital.

Furry Friends made regular visits to SCHHC prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and now have begun their rounds once again, not only to hospitals, but also to local long-term care and assisted living facilities.

SCHHC CEO Ray Hino is pleased the program is underway again. At a CEO Meet and Greet in the community, Hino met one of Gates’ neighbors who asked about Furry Friends. From there, Hino learned more and reached out and invited the organization back into the hospital.

Hino sees the positive impact the dogs have not only for patients, but for the staff as well.

“We’re just so grateful they are here and bringing this wonderful program to Southern Coos,” Hino said.

“Ray has been so nice and supportive and just happy to have us,” Gates said.

Gates and Scholl only take the dogs into rooms where the patient has requested a canine visit. The dogs interact with the patient, even sometimes climbing on their bed for snuggles. In return, the dogs get lots of petting and hugs.

All Furry Friends Therapy dogs must be outgoing and comfortable around people. They also much pass a Canine Good Citizen class before interacting with the public.

According to Gates, there are three Furry Friends teams in Bandon. Her pup Queen, who she has had since he was a puppy and is now 3, has learned how to be a therapy dog in the past year. Gates is former owner of Begin Agains consignment shop in the Bandon Shopping Center. Prior to that, she worked as a baker at Raley’s in Sacramento for 25 years.

She enjoys bringing Queen into the hospital and the feedback she gets from patients.

“It’s just such a joy to be working with these dogs,” she said. I think it’s the way the patients and staff respond. It gives them a lift and I really think they all need it.”

Scholl has had Beaux since he was 4 months old. He’s now 9.

“You really have to wait until they are 2 or 3 years old, until they settle down,” Scholl said of the therapy dogs. It’s work for them and for us. You have to watch the dog and notice whether it’s getting stressed or tired.”

Scholl said after the visits, the dogs are ready to sleep for a few hours.

“But they love it, they really do,” Scholl said. “They love people.”

Scholl, a retired RN, is a former Southern Coos Hospital employee who worked at Ocean View Care Center before it was sold and torn down.

The Furry Friends Therapy dogs has chapters all over the United States. The one in Coos County is located in Coos Bay and provides insurance and support for its volunteers throughout the county.

Gates and Scholl also take Queen and Beaux to visit Still Water Senior Living and Pacific View Senior Living Community in Bandon.

“It’s just a really good program,” Gates said. “We’re so glad to come here.”

For more information, visit https://furryfriendstherapydogs.org/ or on Facebook: Coos Bay Furry Friends Therapy Dogs, Inc.