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Therapy dog helps owner heal, spreading calmness to hospital goers

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Dawn and Oliver.jpg

ROCKFORD (WREX) — Anyone who stops into OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford may hear the pitter patter of some tiny paws as they come in.

If they do, it's quickly followed by the welcoming face of Oliver.

This pup is a proud part of the Paws for Healing program at OSF.

Since 2012, it's brought dogs in to connect with patients and staff alike to help relieve stress.

"The natural connection between a person and the therapy dogs is calming. It helps with anxiety and it can really help with the healing process," OSF patient experience manager Lisa Lasala said. 

Oliver's owner, Dawn Pfluger is all to familiar with her furry friend's healing power. 

Dawn is alongside Oliver every minute they're at the hospital, making the rounds.

"Well I've just been doing it for about a year. We wander around. We see staff, people in the waiting room and the support people," Pfluger said.

"When people come down and say 'hi Oliver,' it really is heartwarming to me."

Before getting Oliver, Pfluger was dealing with some significant medical issues.

She tried medication for a while but that just seemed to make her problems worse.

"I had some neurological problems that caused some speech and communication issues. Taking medication produced a lot of anxiety. I was suffering from anxiety I'd never had before," Pfluger said.

When everything else failed, Pfluger was recommended a therapy dog.

Enter Oliver.

Once this pair came together, it was a complete change for Pfluger. 

"He just really provides a calmness and grounds me and allows me to now be so anxious about things going on around me," Pfluger said.

Pfluger is a real time example of the power Oliver and other therapy dogs provide.

Her personal story provides a lot to the program and everyone that takes advantage of it.

"It's amazing to have volunteers like Dawn and Oliver," Lasala said.

"She (Dawn) has the passion like nobody else because she's experienced how much a therapy dog can help her."

Dawn and Oliver hope to get back to the point of seeing patients soon as they aren't seeing them directing right now due to COVID-19 protocols.

If you know anyone in our community, on two legs or four, trying to brighten up people's lives, you can fill out a nomination form on our Inspiring 815 page at or you can reach out to

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Morning Anchor

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019.Evan coordinates our "Inspiring 815" series. You can connect with Evan at

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