The Perfect Prescription
A Day in the Life of a Four-legged Healer
A dozen or so veterans greet each other then take their seats in a circular formation. An affectionate Labrador, her tail wagging softly, makes her way around the group, inviting each participant to pet her on the head. Suddenly, she stops before a man and places her gentle muzzle on his knee. He sighs, snuggles into the dog’s silken fur, and smiles. And the healing begins.
What does a facility therapy dog like Pella do? Exactly that—and more—for everyone she meets at Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital’s three clinics in the Florida Panhandle.
Under the astute guidance of her handler, Robert Reuille—a 20-year Air Force veteran who knows firsthand the healing power of canine companionship—Pella brings joy and comfort to everyone around. During her daily rounds, Pella’s sweet personality and uncanny sixth sense deliver smiles, healing, and hope.
Robert notes that working in the mental health field is incredibly stressful and exhausting. “It mentally drains you because you see hundreds of people a day, some who may want to take their lives,” he says. That’s why Pella begins her day by greeting every therapist individually. She delivers instant warmth, affection, and understanding for the staff, instinctively recognizing stress and then gently interacting with those experiencing it.
But her impact doesn’t stop there. “I could tell probably 50-plus stories of how she’s helped patients,” Robert shares. “For example, there was one who refused to get out of the car. She was emotionally distraught and would not—could not—calm down. When I took Pella out there, the patient’s whole attitude changed. She was able to come into the clinic and receive the help she needed.”
Pella’s presence quickly calms patients and alerts staff to pay closer attention to those in crisis. “It’s really fun to watch her,” Robert says. “Sometimes, she’ll just put her head on their knee and look at them, which changes their whole demeanor.”
Pella’s quiet compassion has a tangible, powerful impact on countless veterans and healthcare workers. Radiating an empa-thetic “I’m here for you and won’t judge you” manner even during the most difficult circumstances, she demonstrates why dogs can provide comfort in moments of vulnerability in ways that humans often can’t.
Thanks to friends and supporters like you, Pella and 25 other magnificent Southeastern facility therapy dogs currently help thousands of veterans and medical personnel at military hospitals and clinics across the country. Every day, these dogs make a healing difference.