When Ranger Smiles – A Pet Therapy Story

Therapy Dog

For National Take Your Pet to Work Day, we’re highlighting one of our amazing Pet Therapy Teams!

Melissa Ellis not only works as a Teacher Assistant at Bethany Children’s Health Center, she and her therapy dog Ranger help enrich the experience of patients, staff and other community groups through pet therapy visits.

Ranger is Melissa’s first therapy dog, and she couldn’t be more excited about the impact Ranger has on therapy visits. “I love seeing all the smiles that we get when we do therapy visits,” she says. “Seeing how the kids here respond to him makes me so happy. I see them smile and reach for him, when normally that would be out of their comfort zone.”

The journey for this therapy team began when Melissa was taking Ranger to basic obedience classes. Ranger is an Anatolian Shepherd, a breed originally used to guard flocks in Turkey. The breed is known for being protective, but also intelligent, patient and extremely loyal. The class instructor commented on Ranger’s great disposition and suggested therapy work to Melissa. The rest is history.

Melissa and Ranger were originally certified by completing a six-week course and exam through A New Leash on Life. In order to visit Bethany Children’s, Ranger had to pass his Canine Good Citizen test and an on-site test to be certified by Human Animal Link of Oklahoma (HALO). Melissa reports that Ranger passed both tests with flying colors!

“Ranger makes a good therapy dog because he is so calm. He is very obedient and smart,” Melissa explains. “And of course, he loves people – especially kids!”

Ranger excels at just being Ranger. “Here at Bethany Children’s, we often have him lay on the stage and the kids come up and pet him. We also get kids to sit next to him and pet him. Sofia likes to hold his leash and take him for ‘walks’ in her power wheelchair,” Melissa says. Ranger also visits libraries, where children read to him, and he provides stress relief for businesses in the community and college students facing final exams.

But Ranger isn’t always so chill. “He gets SO excited when he sees me getting his ‘therapy backpack’, vest and leash ready. He runs to the door and sits and waits for me,” Melissa says.

Melissa recalls many memorable moments with patients at Bethany Children’s, but remembers one that stole her heart. “Ranger was on the mat with a patient who kept leaning over and hugging Ranger. Both he and Ranger had the biggest smiles on their faces. Yes, Ranger smiles. It’s so cute!”

Join us in celebrating our Pet Therapy teams and all they do for our patients and staff.

Back to Blog