COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Midlands man has found a way to give some really good medicine to hospital patients. And it's not in the form of pills.
Pet therapy has healing benefits - and not just for those who are sick.
Coming in at 150 pounds, 34 1/2 inches at the shoulder, and on hind legs that would reach six foot three inches, this three year old Great Dane named Rumor is the real answer to some health problems.
Lexington Medical Center offers pet therapy to its patients since studies praise a pups' ability to significantly reduce a patient's pain, anxiety, fatigue and depression.
"They're lonely, they want somebody to talk to. And, again, the dog doesn't ask for anything in return. The dog just gives her love," Butch Younginer said.
Rumor is one of Butch Younginer's three Great Danes; all are therapy dogs. He says they're gentle giants that are the perfect height for a patient's bed. Just as big as Rumor's size is her disposition.
"She gives unconditional love," Younginer said. "She doesn't ask for anything in return. She's there to cheer up the patients or make them feel better or in some cases patients are missing their pets at home so she's there to help them cope with their situation that they're
Before becoming a therapy dog, Butch does obedience training for a year which includes taking the dog wherever he goes to socialize her to all kinds of places and people.
"We try to bulletproof the dog as much as we can to different sounds and smells and noises, you name it," Younginer said.
Being a devoted volunteer for pet therapy is just as therapeutic for Butch. Years ago, he had been a longtime volunteer for Little League baseball with his son. But then life threw him a curveball.
"In 2005 we lost our son, killed in a car accident. My love for baseball kind of waned after that because that was something he and I did together."
Butch's wife suggested he find something he and the dog could do together as a new volunteer outlet. At first, even pet therapy was tough because of seeing a patient's pain - or death.
"I've learned over time how to distance myself, but to go in and give those kids and here in this hospital with adults as much unconditional love as we can."
The most common questions patients ask Butch are 'Can we ride it? Is that a horse coming down the hall? And how much does it eat'?
"Quite surprisingly Great Danes don't eat as much as people think they eat. During their first year of life when they're growing rapidly they do eat a lot but once they hit 15, 16, 17 months old their food consumption drops. Rumor only eats 3 1/2 cups a day. It's a lot less than people think."
Perhaps that's how she keeps her girlish figure. After all, Rumor even has her own Facebook page.
That Facebook page is "Levi, Phoenix, Rumor." Most Great Danes live to about eight or nine.
Rumor will work till she's about six or seven - or whenever she feels like retiring.