Doctor and dog duo honored for volunteerism

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -- A retired doctor is still finding ways to help patients.

Dr. Norman Knowlton practiced at Mercy for 23 years and Cox Health for 13 years, both in Springfield, Missouri, before retiring in 2013.

His dog, Lucy, a red-head named after Lucille Ball, was already involved with Pet Therapy of the Ozarks when Dr. Norm realized she could make a difference at his former workplace.

"Patients love this. It makes their day," he said. "When you go by patients that are... cancer patients... that are down and out, she walks in, a smile comes to their face, it makes their day."

Five or six times a month, Dr. Norm and Lucy visit patients in oncology, neurology, radiation and rehabilitation. Sometimes, it can be a tough job.

"Sometimes it'll even make me cry," Dr. Knowlton said. "Because when you go in with patients that are very ill, and she makes them happy and makes the family happy, it's very emotional."

But the hours spent wandering the halls, lifting the spirits of not just patients, but also their families, are always worth it.

"There's rarely somebody that doesn't smile," Dr. Knowlton said. "And she's such a pleasant dog and when she comes in, everybody loves her."

Dr. Knowlton and Lucy are also an award-winning pair. They were nominated for the Gift of Time award from the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Churches. They were also given the Hospital Heroes award from the Missouri State Hospital Association.

And in July, employees of Cox Health nominated them for the Daily Point of Light Award, a national award that recognizes volunteers.

"What I was told is that they've never given it to a non-human," Dr. Knowlton said. "So Lucy might be the first non-human. So they gave it to in my name and her name."

Dr. Knowlton said he will continue doing patient visits with Lucy as long as she is in good health and continues to enjoy it.

Lucy also visits Lakeland Hospital and Mercy, and makes appearances at Springfield Cardinals games.

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