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Gunny the Golden Retriever enjoyed her visit as much as the Respiratory Therapy staff.

Staff embrace – literally – wellness initiative

Sometimes, especially now, those who take care of others need some TLC.

Volunteer Coordinator Virginia Kulig and her pet therapy teams know this, which is why they’re offering visits to employees in patient care areas and other departments. 

Previously, unit staff would request a pet visit for patients, and staff would say a quick hello when the teams came to the unit. Now, as part of Yale New Haven’s employee wellness initiatives, patient services managers and other department leaders can request pet therapy team visits for their staff. During the visit, the dogs’ owners will ask if there are patients who would like, and can safely have, a pet visit. 

Not surprisingly, the staff visits are a hit. Every time these pups come through the door, tails wagging, noses ready for a nuzzle, employees grin beneath their masks, drop to their knees and bask in the unconditional love that dogs so expertly and effortlessly supply. 

As one patient services manager said in a thank you to Kulig after a visit: “I cannot tell you enough how happy the staff were to meet and spend time with the dog.  Everyone was almost in tears to see and interact with a furry friend who we have missed so much.”  

“It’s having such a tremendous impact on employee wellness,” Kulig said. “I’m just so proud that we can do our small part to help staff.”

Clinical managers who would like to request a therapy dog visit for their staff and patients should contact Kulig directly at [email protected], or 203-688-6449. She will discuss each request with the department leader to ensure the visit will meet safety and infection prevention protocols. Volunteer Services is looking for pet therapy teams. If you, or someone you know, has a certified therapy dog, contact Kulig.

Respiratory therapist Olga Franco and Jarvis pretty much sum up what YNHH’s pet therapy visits for staff are all about. The dogs and their owners often visit nursing units, but will visit other departments for special requests, such as Respiratory Therapy Week.


Ace was perfectly happy to perch on a lap, and Aby Hagley, PCA, Medicine (EP 9-5), was happy to have him there. The two had met before, when Ace visited Sacred Heart University, where Hagley is a student. 


Pet therapy volunteer Bob Aldrich visited employees on Medicine (EP 9-5), where his dog, Finnegan gave, and received, lots of love.