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Posted by: thepinetree on 09/28/2022 06:33 PM Updated by: thepinetree on 09/28/2022 06:33 PM
Expires: 01/01/2027 12:00 AM

Rodney, Wyatt and Finn: Spreading Animal Kindness at MTMC

San Andreas, CA...Feeling sad, scared or overwhelmed? A therapy dog can be the best medicine in that moment. A look into their soulful eyes can make your worries melt away. Three sweet pups prove that point regularly at Mark Twain Medical Center (MTMC). Rodney, Wyatt and Finn are often seen strolling through the halls, ducking into patient rooms and greeting staff. They spread animal kindness – enhancing the humankindness associated with their surroundings at MTMC.

MTMC’s Therapy Dog Team includes, from left, Wyatt and his mom Marianne Wilson; Finn and his mom Joanna Tedder and Rodney with his dad Dick Brown.

MTMC President and CEO Doug Archer says, "We are extremely excited to increase our pet therapy program with Finn and Wyatt joining Rodney to help put smiles on the face of everyone! It's amazing to see the positive impact these animals have on our patients and staff."

Rodney is a five-year-old lab-border collie mix whose handler/dad is Dick Brown of Valley Springs. Rodney also is a service dog for his dad, who is dealing with some health issues.

Finn, a German shepherd mix, joined his handler/mom Joanna Tedder of Mountain Ranch in 2020. She is a veteran therapy dog mom whose German Shepherd Ranger was a well-known presence in the community before he passed away.

Wyatt is a Golden Retriever and a newbie to the program who is still refining his skills. His handler/mom Marianne Wilson of Rail Road Flat is training him as a tribute to her late husband Jonathon. She explains, “My husband suffered a prolonged illness. During that time he enjoyed visits from therapy dogs – and even a therapy pony – at the valley facility where he was hospitalized. We love animals and vowed to raise and train a therapy dog when he recovered. He never left the hospital. As I mourned, I realized I wanted to carry through on our dream. And, that’s when Wyatt came into my life. He was a local breeder’s pick of the litter.”

Rodney and Finn both met their pup parents through the well-respected dog training program at Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown. Dogs perfect canine good citizen skills in a 12-week program that matches them with inmates dedicated to their training. They are schooled in obedience techniques in addition to learning how to greet people calmly and equally. They develop an uncanny canine ability to keep their cool in all circumstances. Hospitals are inherently noisy places so the training they receive makes them good candidates for therapy work.

Joanna worked at Sierra Conservation Center for many years, rounding out a long career working as a Health Program Specialist and part of a juvenile diversion program. She has nurtured therapy dogs for over 15 years. She says, “I first came to understand the power of dogs interacting with people in need early in my career. I worked at a development center and I often took my German shepherd to work with me on weekends just to cheer up our patients. The results were amazing.” Her work with special needs has continued for decades and included working with special needs students in Calaveras Unified School District.

Dick and Rodney came together two years ago. “It’s hard to determine who rescued who,” Dick says with a smile. “I was having some health issues and I knew a service dog could help me with anxiety. In a way, getting together was like choosing a mail order bride. Sierra Conservation Center sent me his picture and I knew he was the one. But because of COVID, I could not go see him until he graduated from the training program and I officially adopted him. I had to wait nine weeks to take him home. It turns out he has the perfect personality for this work.” He continues, “When I show up places without Rodney, everyone is asking where he is. I am actually just his driver.”

Dick and Joanna are both volunteer chaplains at MTMC. Along with Marianne they also volunteer with Calaveras Consolidated Fire District and Central Calaveras Fire District – providing therapy dog comfort to emergency responders.

Rodney, Finn and Wyatt are specially trained through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Inc. They share celebrity status at MTMC and its clinics, where they visit regularly. In keep with their wide-spread popularity, they are featured on special trading cards which they pass out to fans.

The cards share personal details and their outlook on life to help folks get to know them better. For example, Finn’s full name is Finn (Fenrir) Tedder. He declares, “I love affection” and more specifically, he loves people and pets. Rodney Brown observes “We have a way of finding the people who need us” and shares the fact he loves ice cream, visiting with others and getting petted. Wyatt Dean Wilson suggests “Smile at strangers and you just might change a life.” He reveals he has a pretty girlfriend named Debra and his favorite pastime is stealing rolls of toilet paper and eating them.

The dogs’ ability to provide comfort at times of need is legendary. In one case, when Dick and Rodney visited the ICU they chatted at length with the daughter of an unresponsive patient who told them of her mother’s love of dogs. The next day, the daughter called Dick to let him know her mother was awake and asking about Rodney. Dick explains, “This just reinforces my belief that event though a patient is not conscious, they are aware of what is being said. How else would she know to ask about Rodney? These dogs instinctively know what folks need,” Dick adds. “We visit all parts of the hospital. We cheer up kids in the Emergency Department, are invited to join patients in their rooms and greet staff members.”

During the pandemic, the dogs had a special mission to help lift the spirits of hospital staff who were dealing with uncertainty, anxiety and exhaustion.

Dick recalls, “One night during the pandemic, I saw a young man at work in the hospital – it must have been around 2 a.m. He looked overwhelmed, sad and very distraught. Rodney was able to sense that there was a feeling of overwhelming stress and strain. He simply just did what he does best – he just loved on him.” “They embraced and the young man began sobbing. It was a beautiful moment of animal kindness.”

Team members are so popular that trading cards have been created for each of them to share with fans


About Mark Twain Medical Center
Founded in 1951, Mark Twain Medical Center is a 25-bed, critical access hospital providing inpatient acute care, outpatient services and emergency services. The Medical Center’s Medical Staff represents a broad range of specialties that ensure access to high quality medical care in a rural community. In addition to being a major provider of health services, Mark Twain Medical Center is also one of the area’s largest employers. More than 300 people are employed at the hospital and its four Family Medical Centers. The Medical Center is a member of Dignity Health and a part of CommonSpirit Health, one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the nation dedicated to advancing health for all and serving communities in 21 states. For more information, please visit our website at. Mark Twain Medical Center is also on Facebook.

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