Healing Paws | Issaquah therapy dog warms hearts

Issaquah therapy dog warms hearts of hospital and skilled nursing home patients around the region.

Issaquah resident Laurie Carlisle’s 5-year-old Shetland Sheepdog, Truitt, is a wonder dog. Not only has the Sheltie won more than 100 ribbons for his expertise in agility competitions, but he also is a therapy dog, who regularly visits patients at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Swedish Hospital in Issaquah and nursing homes.

In his second appearance at Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation March 13, Truitt, as usual, was a big hit, adorned with a green St. Patrick’s Day scarf and shiny shamrock.

“They (patients) forget where they are once they are with him,” Carlisle said. “He comforts them.”

Once, Carlisle recalled, a large man who had been in a terrible accident, asked if Carlisle could put Truitt on his hospital bed. He thanked her over and over. When it was time to go, Truitt wouldn’t move. He sensed that the man was in severe pain and didn’t want to leave him, Carlisle said, fighting back tears.

Truitt also has comforted soldiers returning from war, and their families. Carlisle took him to a weekend warrior event on Bainbridge Island, where returning vets reunite with their families.

“The kids went crazy,” she said.

She said hospital staff love him, too, because they also are stressed out. The orthopedic unit at Overlake keeps treats on hand just for Truitt.

At Issaquah Nursing and Rehab, Carlisle had space to set up a short agility course consisting of 12 poles that Truitt runs through, like a slalom run. In competition he has to maneuver through 24. With speed and grace he nailed it, much to the resident’s glee. The reward — cheese at the finish.

The questions from the residents ranged from “Is he fixed?” to “Has he been to Westminster?” The answers were yes, and no. Truitt is a performance dog, Carlisle said, not a show dog.

After the show, Truitt turned on the charm, visiting with individual residents, giving kisses and basking in all the petting. Many of them recalled dogs they had in the past, clearly missing them. But Truitt showed them unconditional love.

Truitt comforts resident June Evans at Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation.

Truitt takes a moment to pose. Not only is he a therapy dog, he is also a champion in agility competition.