Pet therapy has been known to work wonders for patients with all types of conditions and diseases.

It’s been known to reduce stress and add years to your life. Not to mention lift your spirits. Besides that, it’s just a whole lot of fun, which is what patients at Lafayette Regional Health Center are finding out.

Since earlier this year, volunteers from Village Hospice have been dropping by every couple of weeks with a special furry visitor — “Stretch,” a 3 1/2 year old, tri-colored Basenji dog. The volunteers bring Stretch to see several patients during their visit. Having Stretch around seems to have a dramatic effect even on patients who appear mostly non-responsive. What Stretch offers most is empathy, according to volunteer Diann Ramsey, who also does office volunteer work at LRHC and is known as the “snack lady” for bringing snacks around to patients.

“It’s a natural instinct,” said Ramsey. “Man and dogs have been partners down through the ages.”

Volunteer Houston Walkinshaw said patients all seem to respond differently to pet therapy. But one thing’s for sure — it seems to brighten up every patient’s day, he remarked.

While visiting one patient last Thursday afternoon, the well-trained Stretch sat quietly on the bed while an elderly patient gently stroked its head and back. The woman said Stretch — so named due to his propensity to stretch his body out on the floor following certain commands — reminded her of her grandfather’s dog.

“Some patients are thrilled. Some talk about their own dogs or their families, or they talk to Stretch,” said Walkinshaw. “It just brings a lot of smiles, and can also spark some memories. Anything to break up the drudgery of sitting in a hospital bed.”