Forrest General now has a certified pet therapy dog, Toby the Labradoodle! Toby will be visiting Forrest General every week, and is specially trained and certified to visit hospital patients. He loves to be petted and show off his tricks!
Continue reading below for more information on Toby!
Toby, a certified pet therapy dog owned by the Gholson family of Laurel, is just beginning his work at Forrest General, but according to his family seemed destined for the caring career from the start. With the specific desire for a calm dog in mind, the family researched and set out to look for a Labradoodle puppy, which is a breed combination of Labrador retriever and poodle known for their great temperament, intelligence and loyalty. They located the perfect puppy at a breeder in Kansas and soon Toby was part of the family. Bob Gholson, an attorney in Laurel, and Melinda, a former newspaper journalist and new clothing store owner, along with daughter Rachel each have extensive family experience with animals and knowledge of the incredible impact dogs can have on a person's mood. This experience inspired them to begin thinking about how Toby could possibly help people. "After Toby had spent time with us, we realized he made people smile just sticking his head out of the car window or walking in the neighborhood," said Melinda Gholson. "We all came to the conclusion that Toby was special and we wanted to share him with others."
As a pet therapy dog, Toby will make trips to Forrest General on a regular basis, touring various floors and stopping in rooms or areas where patients would like to see him. Patients can pet him and spend time with him, feeding him treats in return for a demonstration of his repertoire of tricks. Staff at Forrest General and Toby's owners hope that these visits will spread smiles and happiness in the wake of his wagging tail. "We often say that Toby has the love of God in his heart because he is a friend to everybody," said Melinda Gholson. "Our desire would be that Toby would bring a spirit of hope to patients - that he would provide a break or distraction from the pain and discomfort many patients experience and maybe remind them of good times with their own dogs."
The Gholson family is very familiar with hospitals, as daughter Rachel spent many of her childhood days as a patient. When she was one year old, Rachel was diagnosed with an immune response problem called crescentic glomerulonephritis, which caused her body to attack and destroy her kidneys. She received care at University Medical Center in Jackson, and then they transitioned to daily dialysis at home for a year. At age two, she was well enough to receive a kidney transplant and in December 1995, Rachel underwent surgery at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, where she received one of her father's kidneys. "The thing about this that makes me so excited is just to see people react to Toby," said Rachel. "I love to see people's face change when they see him walk into the room. Their eyes light up and their face lights up in a huge smile. I need that just on a regular day, and I know someone who is in the hospital could use it way more than I do. Toby doesn't know who's sick and who isn't - he just loves everyone and I feel like for a brief while the patients can feel like they aren't sick."