PUPS program brings a wagging tail, happiness to medical patients Published Sept. 29, 2015 By Senior Airman Holly Mansfield 81st Training Wing Public Affairs KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Beginning in October, the 81st Medical Group will start the Patients Utilizing Pet Services program at the Keesler Medical Center. The PUPS program allows dogs certified through the Delta Society based in Gulfport to visit patients at the hospital. “The PUPS program is used as a way to lighten the moods of our patients who are here recovering,” said 1st Lt. Jessica Bertke, 81st Inpatient Operation Squadron clinical nurse. “Our pet therapy is more of a psychological and emotional therapy rather than physical. When we have admitted patients here sometimes the anxiety levels can be high. They could have pain issues or they could be having other serious life changes, so this program could help lower their blood pressure, decrease anxiety and encourage rehabilitation.” Patients recovering from surgery or procedures at the medical center will be able to relieve stress through visits from different dogs in the program. “With the smaller dogs we’ll lay a sheet down on the bed and let them sit next to the patient,” said Bertke. “It’s a way to visit and divert attention from any pain or anxiety they might have. The dogs are here to give love and support to our patients.” Along with helping to lift patients' spirits, the dogs will also boost the morale of the Airmen working in the patient recovery areas. With a possible capacity of 40 patients, the Airmen can use the dogs as a way of brightening their own day. “A lot of us working here are huge animal lovers so that’s one thing we are really looking forward to,” said Bertke. “On these heavy days our staff can get run down so when you see a fluffy little puppy come into the area it can really brighten the morale of the office.” For those wanting to volunteer their dog to the PUPS program, contact Bertke at 228-376-5612 or the Delta Society at 228-265-0336.