Therapy dog Marcus brings joy amid pandemic to Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Recently added to the full-time staff, Marcus spends his days cheering up patients and medical staff

He's one of the most in demand staffers at the hospital and he loves belly rubs!

SAN ANTONIO – Meet Marcus! He is one of the most in-demand staff members at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

Since he joined the staff in November, the hospital’s full-time, in-house therapy dog visits several patients and staff a day and prescribes lots of love.

”Marcus just has a way of connecting with the patients and with their families and helping bring some joy and to bring some distractions during this time that has been so tough for everyone,” Allison Sharawi, facility dog coordinator for Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, said.

Marcus’ job is pretty simple but very important. He’s there to just sit or lay in your lap and give you lots of love and snuggles.

”Research has shown they lower heart rate-- they lower blood pressure, they distract from any pain and anxiety that a patient or family member might be having,” Sharawi said.

The hospital used to have several more outside volunteer therapy dogs, however when the pandemic struck, those volunteer visits came to a halt. When Marcus joined the staff, many precautions were taken, like only visiting patients who have negative covid tests and not visiting any patients with viral or contagious illnesses.

”Just to protect Marcus, to protect all the rest of our patients and families and staff as well to keep everyone healthy,” Sharawi said.

Marcus has also played a vital role in de-stressing medical staff who have had an extremely stressful year with the pandemic... it’s why Allison hopes they can have more therapy dogs in house in the near future.

”Demand here is already high; everyone wants to see Marcus,” Sharawi said. “He’s so popular just because he does such an amazing job, so we hope to grow our program and add more dogs to our team.”

Allison is Marcus’ handler and at the end of the day, Marcus goes home with Allison where he gets to be a normal dog. Allison says he enjoys playing with toys and barking at squirrels.

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About the Authors:

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.