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Therapy dogs keep patients smiling while waiting for care at RAM clinic

Before patients got to the dentist chair or the vision center at the RAM clinic, something furry came to them first.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Hundreds of people came out for free medical care at Remote Area Medical's annual Knoxville clinic at Chilhowee park on Saturday.

Anyone who needs dental, vision or basic medical care can take advantage of RAM's services through Sunday, Feb. 3.

Patients who come to RAM clinics often wait hours, sometimes in pain, to see the doctors they need.

But before they got to the dentist chair or the vision center on Saturday, something furry came to them first.

Hurricane, the 5-year-old golden retriever.

RELATED: Remote Area Medical bringing free clinic to Knoxville this weekend, Jan. 31-Feb. 2

"You like being pet, huh," asked one patient.

Yes, he does.

Hurricane got lots of pets from lots of people at RAM.

"Probably 50 plus, 50 to 100," John Brockman, Hurricane's owner, said.

They pair volunteers with H.A.B.I.T. That stands for Human Animal Bond In Tennessee, a program through UT's vet school that brings therapy dogs to hospitals and clinics.

Hurricane was one of a handful of dogs from H.A.B.I.T. who came to brighten people's day at the RAM clinic.

RELATED: Pets with a purpose: How to become a therapy dog

"I think it's cool, I love animals," one patient said.

"It's wonderful," another said.

Hurricane did a pretty good job of putting smiles on people's faces.

"He's fuzzy and he's cute," one young patient said.

"It's so wonderful you guys bring him out here, it's great for the patients," RAM volunteer Miriam Matthias said.

Hurricane was there for any type of support people need.

"They basically take your mind off of anything and relieve some stress," Brockman said.

RELATED: RAM holds milestone 1,000th clinic in Knoxville this weekend

He said Hurricane distracts patients in the best way.

"He really doesn't care what you look like or how sick you are," Brockman said. "He accepts you just the way you are."

That judgment-free kind of love is just what the doctor ordered.

"He has no questions about me, he's just trusting," one patient said.

The RAM clinic will be open again on Sunday.

The parking lot opens at midnight on Saturday and tickets will be distributed starting at 3 a.m. Sunday.