Murphy is magic.
He doesn’t carry a wand, at least not one you can see, and he doesn’t wear a pointed hat. But he does wear a little red “cape” around his neck when he’s working.
Jane and Murphy make a great therapy dog team.
Murphy’s magic is different with each person he meets. For some, it’s the magic of touch. For others it might be the magic of his in-the-moment, non-judgemental presence. For others, it’s simply the magic of him being a dog, with his puppy dog eyes and joy in human company. Murphy is a therapy dog who works with his human partner Jane Smith in care facilities in Saskatoon to bring peace, comfort, distraction and affection to those who desperately need it.
Murphy and Jane have been a volunteer St. John Ambulance (SJA) Therapy Dog team in Saskatoon for over four years. They have helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people during that time, all by being present, listening and giving the magic of touch. This year, Jane decided to share Murphy’s magic with even more people, by writing a children’s book about their work and the joy “Murphy Mondays” bring.
“Murphy Mondays” is available for sale at McNally Robinson Bookstore in Saskatoon and at the Royal University
Hospital Foundation (RUHF) Gift Shop in the main mall of Royal University Hospital
“Murphy just brightens everyone’s day,” says Smith affectionately, as we sit down to discuss her book. “I had considered writing a book for a long time and this summer I finally got it down on paper to share the tremendous support SJA therapy dog teams provide to the care of patients.”
Murphy Mondays is a just released children’s book that gives a glimpse into the magic of one special therapy dog team. Jane approached the Royal University Hospital Foundation for funding to support the illustration, design and printing of the book and was successful in receiving a grant from the HUG Fund.
“I titled the book Murphy Mondays because that is what our time at the Royal University Hospital Emergency has become known as,” explains Smith. “Murphy is the first SJA Therapy Dog to visit a Canadian emergency department. We started three years ago and it worked so well there are now five other dog teams in the RUH emergency department on different days of the week. Monday is our day to visit and staff would often tell me how excited they were that it was a Murphy Monday.”
In addition to sharing heartfelt examples of the impact their visits have had for patients, family and staff at Royal University Hospital, the former educator has included a special lesson for children in her book.
“I’m a retired elementary education teacher,” says Smith. “I wanted to share a lesson with my readers, and that lesson is about washing your hands. We always share that lesson in our actual visits, as infection control is so important in the Emergency Department, so we also included it in the book.”
She has also included discussion questions at the back of the book to keep the conversations going and every example in the book is based on a real experience they have had.
“I know what an impact Murphy’s visits have,” Smith explains with a smile as Murphy contentedly sleeps on my feet. “The connection is magic, but the positive effect therapy dogs can have is also being proven with research we have been involved in right in the Emergency Department. Patients report improved pain management and feelings of calm after even a short visit.” She laughs as she recalls how one pediatrician even calls Murphy the “child whisperer,” often asking this amazing English Springer to visit patients before he does.
Murphy is trained to give hugs on command, as Jane demonstrates.
There are a few lines in Smith’s book that perfectly sums up the effect Murphy has on patients – “Bella strokes Murphy’s fur as Murphy looks up at her with his big brown eyes…it is the first time Bella has smiled in hours.”
Smith is splitting all the proceeds of her book between the Royal University Hospital Foundation (RUHF), for their campaign in support of a new adult emergency, and the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program.
“It’s my way of supporting the work of the RUHF for a GREATE.R. and the work of SJA in supporting SJA therapy dog teams,” she says.
Jane, and her husband Preston, Dean of the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine and a Saskatchewan Health Authority board member are both keen believers in the power of pet therapy.
Thank you Jane, for your tireless commitment to volunteering and sharing Murphy with us. And thank you Murphy, for sharing your magic.