Therapy dog

Pawsome program —  Roz Morris, founder of therapy dog program Creating Wellness poses with newly-minted volunteer therapy dog Louie.

Windsor resident “creates wellness” across the county with the help of canine friends

While most dog owners would say they know their dogs have a profound effect on their wellbeing, dogs can often have that effect on anyone around them, especially if they are ill.

“There’s something special about a dog’s love that heals us and makes us feel better,” said Roz Morris, founder of Creating Wellness, a social canine therapy program.

Creating Wellness (CW) is a non-profit organization that consists of volunteers and their dogs that are trained to work as a team, bringing comfort and love to patients in a variety of settings.

Thirty years ago, Morris, who lives in Windsor, started CW at Healdsburg District Hospital (HDH). While running the gift shop at HDH, Morris asked a co-worker to approach the CEO at the time, and ask him if he was interested in having a therapy dog at the hospital. He said absolutely, and CW was born.

The first canine in the program was Morris’s cocker spaniel, Sabrina I.

Morris would wheel Sabrina I around the hospital in a wheelchair so the patients didn’t have to bend down to pet her. For patients who weren’t able to sit up and pet Sabrina I, Morris would put a towel on their bed and lay her on the towel next to the patient.

During her time at HDH, word got out about Morris’s program, and she was approached by others who wanted to join with their dogs.

Thirteen years after Morris started CW, she was approached by the same co-worker who had originally spoken to the CEO about starting CW. The co-worker — who was now working at the old Sutter hospital on Chanate Road — told Morris that Sutter didn’t have any therapy dogs and asked her if she was interested in running the gift shop at Sutter and bringing the CW program to Sutter.

“One weekend, Sabrina I and I went to Sutter and spent many hours on three different floors bringing love to patients ... after that, I knew it was time to share CW with others.”

When Morris and Sabrina I moved to Sutter, her other dogs and volunteers stayed at HDH.

Morris then worked at Sutter for 17 years running the gift shop and CW simultaneously.

“When they built the new Sutter, my office was the size of a closet. I don’t do well in closets unless I’m looking for something to wear, so after 17 years, I retired from Sutter and HDH.”

Shortly after Morris retired from the gift shop, Sabrina I passed away. Morris wanted to continue volunteering with CW, not just organizing it, so she got another cocker spaniel named who was dubbed Sabrina II.

Because Sabrina II is now 15 years old and no longer doing therapy work, Morris adopted Splendor, a four-year-old golden retriever.

Morris’s goal with CW was “making people feel better through the love of a dog,” and she cites that dogs are known to bring down blood pressure levels as well as relieve stress.

Morris has seen first hand how a dog can change a patient’s attitude and make them feel better.

“I’ve seen dogs smell illness ... when a patient has a stomach issue, the dog slowly makes its way towards the person’s stomach and lays their head on it as a way to heal and comfort the patient.”

Morris says dogs have unconditional love for everyone and that’s why they are such good healers. Dogs don’t judge.

“When you give a dog a job, it’s working, it’s active. If a dog is active, it is more likely to live longer. As humans grow older we also need to stay active so we don’t rot away on the couch,” Morris said.

CW can be found at Brookdale in Windsor, Sonoma West Medical Center Specialty Hospital in Sebastopol, Clearwater Lodge Assisted Living, Cloverdale Healthcare Center and The Villas Assisted Living in Cloverdale, Healdsburg Senior Living in Healdsburg and 41 other locations around Sonoma County.

To learn more about Creating Wellness or to contact Roz Morris go to creating-wellness.net, or email at glennm@sonic.net.

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