Therapy on four legs


Every week, a special visitor appears at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). His job? To cheer up patients fighting cancer and their family members.

His name is Misio, and he’s a therapy dog with Intermountain Therapy Animals. Kathy McNulty, a volunteer with the organization, is Misio’s escort.

Kathy says Misio has only been coming to HCI for a few months, but she can already see the difference he’s making for patients and their families. “Over and over, I’ve seen tears turn to smiles,” she says. “Misio takes their minds off the procedures.”

Laura Robins and her husband can use that kind of distraction. They both have stage 4 cancer. They traveled five hours from Meridian, Idaho, so Laura’s husband could have surgery at HCI. Their four Shetland sheep dogs had to stay at home.

Laura says she misses her pets terribly, so it was a welcome surprise to see Misio at HCI. “He’s so handsome and so nice and gentle. It just makes you feel happy and that everything’s going to be okay.”

She adds that nothing compares to the unconditional love of a dog, “It’s just beautiful to have a live thing you can love and feel comforted by.”

Kathy agrees, but she says that becoming a therapy dog takes more than unconditional love. “They must have impeccable manners,” she says. “We want to make sure the animal does not just tolerate being petted or approached, but is confident and happy in new situations and wants to engage with people.”

For more information on therapy dogs (and other animals) visit

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, which means it meets the highest standards for cancer research and receives support for its scientific endeavors. HCI is located on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and is a part of the University of Utah Health Care system. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several high-risk clinics that focus on melanoma and breast, colon, and pancreas cancers, among others. HCI also provides academic and clinical training for future physicians and researchers. For more information about HCI, please visit