Lee Health Welcomes First Facility Dog

Lee Health Welcomes First Facility Dog at Gulf Coast Medical Center for Occupational and Physical Therapy Patients

Photo of Jean and Facility Dog Fitzgerald III, a blonde dog in a blue service vest.

Lee Health is pleased to welcome its newest furry team member, Fitzgerald III, who works at Gulf Coast Medical Center as its first facility dog. Right now, Fitzgerald III is focused on occupational and physical therapy patients. He also offers comfort to patients preparing for procedures.

“Fitzgerald III is adjusting well. Patients and staff look forward to seeing him and we love having him here to help make the hospital stay a little easier for patients and families and aid the recovery process,” said chief nursing and operations executive at Gulf Coast Medical Center, Darcy Allen. “He is dedicated to his job and has such a calming presence for both staff and patients. Sometimes, his presence alone can really make an impact on a patient’s recovery. He trains twice a day and still makes time for fetch, one of his favorite activities. We’ve enjoyed working with Canine Companions and we know it’s the start of a fantastic relationship.”

Fitzgerald III can bring items like tissues to patients, put his head in patients’ laps for comfort, lay on the bed to boost morale, assist patients in walkers, be brushed by neurology patients to work on muscle control and he learns new skills every week. Occupational and physical therapy teams work alongside Fitzgerald’s team to build on his skills that benefit patients.

Facility dogs are highly trained and certified in specific tasks to assist in healthcare settings. Separately, therapy dogs are pets that have been approved to visit and provide comfort and joy.  Lee Health’s Pet Therapy program manages all therapy dogs that visit the hospital, with 63 dogs and continues to support the health system at all of hospital campus locations.

“Canine Companions is excited to partner with Lee Health with the addition of Fitzgerald III to the Gulf Coast Medical Center team. We cannot wait to see his positive impact on patients and learn about all the lives he touches while supporting the work of the hospital,” said Adam Goldman, Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator at Canine Companions.  Fitzgerald III was provided free of charge and by Canine Companions and the Lee Health Foundation will support his continued care.

To learn more about facility dogs, please visit: https://canine.org/service-dogs/our-dogs/facility-dogs/