Duke Garcia, a therapy dog, spends his Tuesdays at Del Sol Medical Center bringing cheer and unconditional love to patients of all ages and diagnoses.

Spending time with Duke provides patients a welcomed distraction from beeping monitors and their daily routines in the hospital.

Duke also brings comfort to the nurses, doctors and support staff, who benefit from his uplifting, happy presence. Duke only visits patients who specifically request time with him and whose doctors have deemed it won’t interfere with their treatment.

“Research has shown that canine therapy can help reduce anxiety and pain symptoms in patients,” David Shimp, chief executive officer at Del Sol Medical Center, said. “The smile you see on a patient’s face when they interact with Duke is priceless. He brings just as much cheer to our staff as he does to our patients when he visits.”

Duke was trained and screened to provide therapy to patients of all ages through “Paws for Love,” a program that offers therapy teams of animals and their handlers to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation and hospice centers.

All therapy dogs must be trained and screened through the “Paws for Love” program to visit Del Sol Medical Center and must be accompanied by a hospital volunteer at all times.