Rush University Medical Center one of 13 hospitals to allow pets to visit patients during stay

CHICAGO -- The health benefits of having a pet range from lowering blood pressure to getting more exercise.

So a handful of hospitals around the country are offering a new way of making their patients better that brings a furry tail wagging, joyful bit of home to the hospital room.

Rocco Ruffolo is thrilled, despite almost a week in the hospital, and major abdominal surgery.

A conversation with a nurse led to this second visit from his furry family member.

"I'm from Chicago, Ruffolo said. "I miss my dog because not married no kids. She goes, "Why don't you bring him in Sunday?' Didn't know you could bring a dog to the hospital"

Ruffolo won't get any visits from his horses, but his dog Luke seems to be his favorite anyway."

"Bought three lots behind the house, and now he has his own park at 43rd and Normal," Ruffolo said.

Rush University Medical Center is just one of 13 hospitals that allow owners to have visits from their own pets.

It started with nurses sneaking pets in, on back elevators so terminally patients could see them one last time. Then someone said let's make it official.

And now that it's official policy, it's not just patients who are delighted. The nurses who spearheaded the program on this floor are enjoying visiting hours as well. There are rules of course.

"Groomed first, visited vet shots are up to date, temperament assessment for that day, before taking them through corridors," said Robyn Hart of Rush Child Life Services.

So you have to be well behaved to visit, perhaps having your own park helps, if you're a dog.

"He's spoiled, very spoiled, but sort of returning favor… 10 times over," Ruffolo said.

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