Adventist Health patients benefit from pilot program 'Caring Paws'

Shasta, a Yorkie, is one of the first dogs in a pilot program called 'Caring Paws'
Shasta, a Yorkie, is one of the first dogs in a pilot program called 'Caring Paws'

Patients at Adventist Medical Center – Hanford, are benefitting from a pilot program, called “Caring Paws,” which brings trained canines into hospital rooms for mental and spiritual healing. On Aug. 19, Shasta, a Yorkie Schnauzer, became the first canine to bring comfort to patients.

“Animals have a way of bringing peace,” says Tanya Hutchison, director of Volunteer Resources at Adventist Health. “Statistics show that petting a dog can decrease your blood pressure significantly because it has such a calming effect.”

The Volunteer Resources Department teamed up with PetSmart in Hanford to offer training to the dogs and volunteer handlers. Each handler must undergo training and receive a certificate in order to handle a pet.

Adventist Health / Central Valley Network’s first handler is Shasta’s owner, Denise Gruzensky, a family nurse practitioner at Adventist Health Physicians Network in Hanford. Gruzensky is an advocate for animals with special needs and was instrumental in helping the Volunteer Resources Department create a policy for the program.

“Caring Paws” is currently available to hospital patients. To schedule a visit with Shasta, all patients or family members need to do is call 559-537-2740, or email

To watch a video of the Aug. 19 kick-off of “Caring Paws,” please visit:


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