Therapy dogs return to IU Health North in Carmel


Pam Gasway had no intention of putting her puppy to work.

Gasway’s friend would bring her dog to play with her puppy, Luciano.

“She had a dog that was a service dog and a therapy dog and had a dog before that was also a therapy dog,” Gasway said. “One day she asked if I ever thought about Luciano being a therapy dog. I said, ‘I have no idea what that is.’ Once she told me about it, I thought, ‘I like the sound of that. That’s something I’d like to explore.’ So, she gave me the information for Paws & Think.”

The Westfield resident said Luciano, now a 2 1/2-year-old mini-goldendoodle named for the late opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, was enrolled in training classes just after he turned a year old.

Gasway and Luciano have been visiting various places for a year. They made their first stop at IU Health North Hospital in Carmel Oct. 31, the first day the therapy dog program returned to the facility. It had been halted in early 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gasway and Luciano now plan to visit IU Health North every Monday afternoon.

“He likes to get petted, and he likes to see people,” Gasway said. “He’s just a friendly little dog. He’s had lots of training.”

Gasway has enjoyed it as well.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Gasway, a retired teacher from Vigo County. “Even on days when it’s maybe not a nice day out or I run into a bunch of traffic going someplace, once we get there and I see how happy he makes people, it’s all worth it.”

Other places they have visited are Sanders Glen Assisted Living, Joy’s House and Brooke’s Place. They are on Paws & Think’s Paws to Read team, visiting the Westfield Washington Public Library once a month for children to read to Luciano.

“The kids love it, and he likes it, too,” said Gasway, who makes two to three visits a week.

This is Gasway’s first dog as an adult.

“The lady I got him from said, ‘My gosh, what have you been doing your whole life?’” Gasway said. “Now I understand what she means. I had dogs when I was little. I had cats in my 20s. My husband (Peter Carino) and I traveled a lot. We would be gone a month at a time, so it wasn’t feasible to have a dog. When we moved (to Westfield) and slowed down, I thought this was a good time to get a dog.”

Peter Canning, a volunteer with the therapy dog program, said the visiting canines benefit patients and staff. 

“We go to the waiting rooms where people have a higher stress level when they are waiting,” Canning said. “When you start doing therapy dog work, you think about the benefits for the patients. What I’ve learned over the number of years I’ve been involved with the program is how much benefit there is for the staff. I’ve had staff members tell me if we spent a couple minutes with us, they were better able to focus and do their work the rest of the day because they had a break from the stress.”