Wednesday, 04 March 2020 12:37

Cuddle Therapy

By Megin Potter | News

She perks up the moment you arrive. 

Quietly watching as you sit down, she slowly comes over, rests her head gently on your knee, and looks up at you with sympathetic eyes. “She naturally took to this job and 99 percent of people who walk through the door are happy to see her,” said Dr. Martin Ferrillo, an Osteopathic Physician at The Albany & Saratoga Centers for Pain Management

Meet Petunia

Petunia is a 3-year-old English Springer Spaniel who has been trained and certified as a therapy dog. 

Growing up with the spaniels his mother trained, Dr. Ferrillo was already familiar with the breed’s amicable nature when Petunia came into his life. 

Because his work as a physician focuses on a whole-body approach to healing, he knew Petunia would be a wonderful addition to his practice. 

“If you let her, she’d just love you until you didn’t want her to anymore,” he said.

She Sees Your Pain

The patients that he treats with neck, back, joint and nerve pain are also under a great amount of stress. 

“She can sense if people are nervous or apprehensive before going into the operating room for injections and tends to gravitate towards those people,” said Dr. Ferrillo.

Pet Petunia’s silky-smooth hair, look into her amazingly sweet eyes, and feel her softly lean against you. It releases feel-good chemicals within the body that help to lower blood pressure and ease a patient’s burden of pain. 

If you’re open to it, she’ll lure you into giving her a belly-rub or to shake hands. She is also allowed healthy treats as a reward.

Dr. Ferrillo and Nurse Practitioner Julie Cuneo have witnessed many instances when Petunia’s presence has had a healing effect on patients who come into the office.

“They just lit up and I saw a new side of this patient. They were moved to tears. Petunia makes this a warmer environment and takes the chill right away,” said Cuneo.

Play Days

Some days are for work and others are for play. 

On Mondays and Fridays, Petunia works at the Queensbury and Saratoga pain management offices, but three days a week she goes to doggie daycare, and on weekends, she’s usually running around outside.

Playing in puddles and going on hikes are among her favorite off-duty activities. 

Petunia enjoys her time off, but also takes her role as a healer very seriously. As soon as Dr. Ferrillo puts on her vest (which signifies that she’s a therapy dog and carries her business cards), Petunia knows she has a job to do.

“The second the uniform goes on, she’s no longer frolicking around, she knows it’s time to go to work,”he said. 

To find out more about how The Albany & Saratoga Centers for Pain Management are reducing pain in a variety of ways, go to

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