Pet Partners program lifts the spirits of cancer patients

Published 5:58 am Wednesday, July 8, 2009

By Staff
Linda Miller, a patient at the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center, said it best: “The great thing about dogs is they love you no matter what, and I think people with cancer appreciate it all the more.”
Yes, pet therapy is the newest Beaufort County weapon in the fight against cancer.
It’s a marvelous idea. The cancer center’s program, called Pet Partners, is affiliated with the Delta Society, a leading national service-animal organization.
And Kasey, a chocolate Labrador retriever, is the star. He seems to have already become a patient favorite at the cancer center, where he debuted earlier this summer.
According to Kasey’s owner, Lalla Sidbury, about half the patients at the cancer center — which is part of the Beaufort Regional Health System — have so far signed up to visit with Kasey.
Sidbury, who is also battling cancer, visits the center with Kasey once a week but hopes to increase the frequency as time goes on. Sidbury recently retired after running the city of Washington Human Resources Department for 18 years.
She and Kasey have put quite the effort into their partnership. Kasey had already graduated from advanced obedience training, which helped them get certified through the Delta Society.
But that wasn’t all: Sidbury also took a home-study course and a written exam. Kasey passed a skills test and simulation exercises to make sure he could handle the distractions of a medical environment. It’s obvious Sidbury was serious about the program, and the cancer center’s patients benefit greatly from her dedication.
It’s often said that the little things often make the most difference in people’s lives. Kasey isn’t particularly little, but he is certainly making a difference. And so, too, is Sidbury, who’s helped herself and many others with her caring attitude and loving dog.