Finding healing powers through man's best friend

(CBS News) NEW YORK - As we covered the recent bombings in Boston and this week's tornado in Oklahoma, we saw -- as we almost always do -- how tragedy often brings out the very best in people. That seems to be true for some special dogs as well.

Finn and Emma are a mixed breed of poodle and wheaten terrier. Yet when it comes to helping people in distress their pedigree is pure: they're therapy dogs.

Actor Daren Kelly has been receiving chemotherapy for a cancerous growth. He described the therapy dogs as medicine.
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They were in Boston to help those grieving for the bombing victims and they were there in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

Finn and Emma are part of the Good Dog Foundation of New York. They live with their owners, Moschell and Jeremy Coffey, in Greenwich Village.

"Dogs have been proven to lower blood-pressure, lower stress, and decrease anxiety just by offering the unconditional love and support," said Moschell.

She later added: "They love the work. They get so excited just to comfort people and to be able to have lots of attention from people."

It's not just disaster victims they're there for -- it's also the sick.

"I didn't really notice anything until I got a swelling here, a lump here," said actor Daren Kelly, touching his throat. He has been receiving chemotherapy for a cancerous growth. "I've lost my taste buds and some of my palette is like fried."

He described what the dogs are doing as medicine. "It's therapy, it's distraction, it's something that you want. You want that energy. It helps you get through."

Do dogs lower stress for cancer victims? The results of a three-year study are expected to be published later this year.

Nurse-practitioner Catherine Concert was part of the study. "I think it will show positive results. The patients come in. They're anxious. A dog walks in.Their anxiety level goes down."

"These dogs are working dogs," said Kelly, "but it doesn't seem to be a chore to them. They are proud of what they are doing."

And many cancer patients and disaster victims are grateful for that sense of pride.

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