CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Conway Medical Center launched a pet therapy program to boost morale among staff — and eventually among patients.

Miss Ellie Mae, a French Bulldog, and Mr. McDuffie, a Goldendoodle, make rounds through the hospital to greet staff.

“Pets have a way of getting to the heart of people immediately,” Carole Biagini, the hospital’s director of volunteer services said. “The staff are generally down on the floor with the dogs, and you can immediately sense a change in the environment.”

While the reprieve from their stressful work is quick, it makes a difference.

“A positive boost,” Biagini said. “Whether it be for two minutes or five minutes, just to give them a healthy diversion from their stressful jobs during this pandemic.”

Mr. McDuffie’s handler, Janet Glendinning, worked at Conway Medical Center for 20 years and now returns once a week on a volunteer basis with her trained therapy dog.

“Honestly, it’s an honor,” Glendinning said. “I used to work at this hospital, and I worked here for 20 years and this dog just brings delight to the people.”

Miss Ellie Mae’s handler, Kim Sicard, taught for 35 years ,and said she made sure to bring in a therapy dog each year to educate students about their importance and different jobs.

“It’s the best thing I’ve done in a really, really long time,” Sicard said. “It’s a little time for me and her to give back.

Both dogs went through a year of training and testing before getting their badges.

“They have to be able to stay,” Glendenning said. “They have to be able to come to you when you call them from a distance. They have to not be bothered by things like a wheelchair rolling up to them.”

When asked why Glendenning and Sicard believe dogs have a therapeutic value, each said it’s because of their “unconditional love.”

Both dogs are certified through Therapy Dogs International.