Kluth Family Dentistry Therapy Dog Eases Patients’ Nerves
Writer / Allison Yates
Photographer / Amy Payne
Before Bodi, an enthusiastic labradoodle puppy, was soothing patients as the Kluth Family Dentistry therapy dog, he was a Christmas surprise.
Two of the practice’s dentists, Dr. Joni and Mike Kluth, were thinking of adding an additional canine member to their family after all of their children had gone off to college. Last Christmas, Dr. Joni pulled it off. Everyone was caught off guard when a fluffy puppy was suddenly at their home.
Dr. Joni had recently heard of another dentist who had a therapy dog, and since she’d always been interested both in dogs and therapy, she thought she’d give it a try. After an eight-week course, Bodi became the Kluth Family Dentistry’s first therapy dog.
The medical world is increasingly understanding what dog lovers have always known — dogs provide empathy and unconditional love. That, says Dr. Joni, is what our world needs most of these days. Bodi, a “happy clown,” is a perfect way to provide it. His job is to provide comfort, support and “basically love on people,” says Joni.
Over the last few years, pediatric dentistry therapy dogs have gained popularity throughout the country. For those who fear the dentist, the presence of a furry friend reduces stress and calms nerves.
According to Dogs & Human Health: The New Science of Dog Therapy & Therapy Dogs, “Dogs can also catch our attention and make us look at them, while our thoughts are distracted from whatever we were doing simply because citizen canine walks by.” That’s just one of the ways a therapy dog can change a patient’s experience.
Other times, the dentists use the dog as motivation for children to be able to go through an uncomfortable procedure.
For example, “After a few more seconds,” Dr. Joni might tell them, “You’ll be able to pet Bodi.”
For one patient at the office who had to get several procedures of baby teeth extractions, Bodi’s presence made her a “changed girl.” Having Bodi by her side transformed her from frightened and crying to relaxed. “It remarkable,” Dr. Joni says.
Dental therapy dogs are known for pediatric dentistry, but at Kluth Family Dentistry, where Bodi assists patients at the dentist office three days a week, it’s not just the children who benefit from the presence of Bodi. Dr. Joni says that just as many adults as kids want to interact with Bodi, too.
Having Bodi around has also been beneficial for the staff, who can take him out or pet him when they need a moment of stress relief.
“That part has been an added bonus,” Dr. Joni says.
When Bodi isn’t soothing anxious dental patients at the office, he can be found at the Kluth’s church, Riverview Hospital or simply just being the puppy that he is.
“When the vest goes off, he gets to be a regular puppy,” Dr. Joni says.
Bodi is a rowdy, yet well-mannered pup at home, but he still knows he has a duty to serve.
“He knows when he puts the vest on he’s game on,” she says.