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Therapy dog with pacemaker raising the spirits of heart patients

Ellie is a 5-year-old therapy dog who needed heart surgery last year. Now she's helping human heart patients feel better.

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — At St. Luke's hospital, sometimes the best medicine comes not from someone in a white coat, but a furry one.

"I think it's awesome," said heart patient Sue Bremer.

She's talking about Ellie, a 5-year-old black lab who makes her rounds here once a week.

"She starts walking in and her tail starts wagging," said her trainer Kathy Howard.

In a big place like this, most humans need directions. But Ellie knows her way.

Her destination is always the sixth floor. The heart floor.

"I had a heart attack the day before yesterday and they put a stint in my heart," Charlie Williams told us.

Doctors here saved Charlie's life but Ellie made his day.  A few minutes with her appeared to be more effective than his pain pills.

"A dog comes in who doesn't poke or prod or stick or ask them any questions," Howard said. "Brings joy to your heart. Makes you happy."

Ellie is part of Duo, a national not-for-profit that trains both service dogs and therapy dogs.

"She is very much a people person kind of dog," Howard said.

Ellie should be pretty comfortable visiting heart patients because she's a heart patient herself.

"She had her two litters and we were doing our three mile walks every morning and she started slowing down intermittenly," Howard said.

It turned out that Ellie had nearly 100 percent blockage in her heart. She had emergency surgery to put in a pacemaker.

"It saved her life. We would not have had her if we didn't do it," Howard said.

Most of the patients on the heart floor don't know Ellie's history. And they don't know how long they will be here. They do know, they feel a little better after some canine comfort.

"It really does comfort you because you have to smile and feel good when you see the dog," Bremer said smiling.

Dispensing comfort and compassion without a prescription.

"I'm feeling so much better than I did yesterday," Bremer said.

Ellie, the therapy dog with a pacemaker. Leaving paw prints on mending hearts.

"I think it leaves them with a smile," said Howard.

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