Therapy dogs bring holiday cheer to patients at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Christmas carolers brought the sounds of the holidays to the hallways of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

But they were not the only ones helping ring in the season.

More than 20 therapy dogs dressed as Santa Claus and reindeer were spreading holiday cheer to patients at the hospital.

"Every time I would take her out people would say she would make them smile. So I wanted to see how I could incorporate it with people who really need a smile in their lives," said Abbey Bland of her dog Lola.

"There's so much going on here that's not pleasant and you have this furry dog. If it helps someone feel better and forget what they're going through for at least five or 10 minutes then I feel like we've done our job," said Beth Jackson.

It's a treat for the staff as well.

"You forget you're at work...you feel like you're getting a special treat...the dogs are so cute," said Britnie Hanks.

Patient Alex Villarreal has been at the hospital for six months waiting for a new heart, and looks forward to visits from Bart and Lola.

"I had a heart episode this morning and it's just cool having them here because this morning I was not in a good spot," Villarreal said.

The therapy dogs and their owners are part of UCLA's People-Animal Connection, the hospital's animal-assisted therapy program. The dogs are not just around for the holidays, they visit patients year-round.
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