Melvin & Bailey Miyamoto

Photo from Melvin Miyamoto

Photo from Melvin Miyamoto

Bailey Miyamoto’s head leans on her owner and a slight smile appears on her face. She’s happy and content, oblivious that she’s this year’s 2014 Red Cross Animal Hero of the Year.

“She does that,” explains owner Melvin Miyamoto, who works at Territorial Savings Bank. “When we’re at home watching TV, she always has to make contact to know that you’re there.”

There’s no doubt that Bailey loves people.

In fact, Miyamoto notes that Bailey prefers interacting with humans and other dogs rather than toys.

Bailey’s demeanor makes her a perfect fit for the Tripler Human Animal Bond program, which is sponsored by American Red Cross.

The 8-year-old golden retriever has been visiting patients for four years, and she spends two to three hours each Saturday interacting with those who have fallen ill.

“Normally, on our routine, we’ll go to the Center for the Aging (at Tripler), and there are a lot of people she’s made friends with,” Miyamoto says. “I think people really appreciate her because some of them spend most of their day just watching television, and they might not have visitors, or maybe their family is on the Mainland.”

After the Center for the Aging, Bailey and Miyamoto make their way to the hospital’s pediatric and psych wards, where they interact with patients and the staff.

“Sometimes the staff has a stressful day, and they just want to pet a dog,” Miyamoto said.

You’ll find Bailey dressed in an array of clothing ranging from aloha shirts, clown outfits and festive hats, and on holidays she gets into the spirit and dresses accordingly.

“Every Saturday she’s wearing something,” Miyamoto says. “When we first started, they give you this service dog vest, but we found that people would be reluctant to approach her because they think she’s helping me in some way. People have heard that you’re not supposed to approach a working dog.”

There’s no doubt Bailey is famous among patients at Tripler, as well as people with whom she interacts on a daily basis. In fact, she has her own line of baseball cards (the whole collection consists of seven), in which she poses in her various outfits.

Miyamoto notes that not just any dog can be a therapy dog. A service dog of this type needs to know basic obedience and must to pass the Canine Good Citizen test, as well as be calm in a variety of situations.

“I think a big thing is that the dog needs to love people,” Miyamoto notes. And that’s something Bailey definitely is good at.