7Everyday Hero Ron Horn leads dog therapy program at Craig Hospital

Volunteer and his four-legged friend help patients
Posted at 8:45 AM, Oct 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-30 10:45:59-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If you are in the hospital for weeks on end, a little comfort, motivation and joy are just what the doctor ordered. 7Everyday Hero Ron Horn helps provide all those things using a special partner. 

"Nelson began his career here at Craig Hospital when he was just 13 weeks old," Horn said.

Nelson is a ten year old Newfoundland dog. He and his handler, Ron Horn, volunteer for the Craig Hospital Newfoundland Dog Therapy Program. 

"Sometimes they're just a patient's best friend," Horn said. 

There are nine of these gentle giants in the Craig program. They go from room to room at least once a week. 

"Their size makes it easy for someone in a wheelchair to reach out and pet them and interact with them," Horn said. 

"It sort of normalizes the setting. Our patients are here for a long time. They are not here for a two-day stay. They're here for months on end," said Jill Stelley Virden, Craig Hospital Volunteer Manager. 

"A lot of patients have their own dogs at home. And they might be gone for a few weeks to a month and so it brings back memories of what they used to have at home," added Dave White at Craig Hospital. 

The Newfies provide comfort to patients who are facing some of their toughest challenges. But they also play a remarkable role in helping patients recover, including a local woman who is recovering from a brain injury that has significantly impacted her speech. 

"What I find interesting is when Nelson comes in, her speech is much better all of a sudden. She can put together phrases and sentences. She isn't able to talk like that except when the dog is here," said Chad Pinson, the patient's husband. 

Nelson and Ron Horn are a powerful team that helps people recover from life-altering events. They give a lot of their time because they see what Craig Hospital can do for people. 

"Craig is probably the most hopeful place in the whole world," Horn said. 

To learn more about volunteering at Craig Hospital in Englewood go to

Mitch Jelniker anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. He also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on 7NEWS. Follow Mitch on Facebook and Twitter. Nominate a 7Everyday Hero here.