When Bob and Rosemary DeSalvo brought Dakota into their loving home, neither of them knew the extent of the comfort and joy he would bring to hundreds of patients at Southern Ocean Medical Center and other facilities throughout southern Ocean County.

Dakota, a Golden Retriever, is one of the registered assistance therapy dogs who volunteers with his owner, Bob DeSalvo, at Southern Ocean Medical Center. Every Tuesday, he is a favorite around the hospital providing unconditional love – both for those who work there, and for the patients receiving care.

At the age of five and a half, Dakota is not only beloved by patients; he also helps improve their overall emotional state of mind and overall well being. “There is no doubt that Dakota brightens everyone’s day when he’s around,” said Kristen Castro, supervisor of volunteer services at Southern Ocean Medical Center. “From a patient and family centered perspective, it’s amazing to see the positive benefits our pets bring to everyone’s lives – both clinically and emotionally during their stay at the hospital,” Kristen added. To become a registered therapy dog, Dakota spent fourteen weeks of comprehensive training before working one-on-one with Bob and patients. “Research confirms the positive benefits of animal assisted therapy,” said Bob DeSalvo. “I am so grateful to personally see how Dakota reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure, and makes patients forget about their problems,” Bob added.

Since volunteering at Southern Ocean Medical Center, Bob has trained two more therapy dogs – Bella and Sadie – who take turns at bringing smiles and compassion to Southern Ocean Medical Center.

For more information about volunteer services at Southern Ocean Medical Center, contact the Volunteer Office at 609-978-3833.Dakota & Bob: Compassion in Action.

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