New Four-Legged Recruits Deployed at Army Hospital

Lt. Valarie R. Harrison
Lt. Valarie R. Harrison
Donna Goldcamp
Donna Goldcamp

TRIPLER (KHNL) - A new round of recruits has been deployed to help injured soldiers at a military hospital on Oahu.

They're not human, they're animals.

What doctors and medicine can't heal, this special troop can cure.

"It's real comforting when you're trying to heal up and take your mind off of everything that's been going on," says Mario, a soldier at Tripler Army Medical Center.

Comfort is what they specialize in.

Triggering smiles is their mission.

It's all part of a program designed to brighten up the faces of injured soldiers and their families at Tripler.

"A lot of our soldiers have extensive trauma and are here for a long time so there's only so much that you can do in a hospital," says Army nurse, Lt. Valarie R. Harrison.

Volunteers say therapy animals give them a sense of home.

They say many of the soldiers at Tripler aren't from here, so they don't get a lot of visitors.

"One time I asked a fellow if he would like a big dog to visit and he said, 'Ma'am, if you brought a mule in here I'd love it. He said he really needed his visitors," says Donna Goldcamp, a volunteer.

For another volunteer, enlisting his pet as a therapy animal, is therapy in itself.

Thomas Abril is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Helping the patients, that helps me because I see her enjoy herself and that makes me happy," says Abril.

And for soldiers bearing battle scars, a little happiness goes a long way.

Tripler's Human Bond Program has been around for at least a decade.

Volunteers say pets must pass strict tests to become military therapy animals.

They say it may be challenging, but that it's the most rewarding job a dog, cat, or rabbit can have.