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Tampa Shriners Hospital celebrates golden retriever therapy dog's milestone visit

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RileyFor Riley the therapy dog, April 5 was a day like no other. Camera crews greeted the golden retriever as he trotted through the entry way and prepared to greet the patients at the Tampa Shriners Hospital, for the 200th time.

For nearly five years, Riley and "dad" Marc Rebhun have brought smiles to the faces of our patients' families; hospital staff, volunteers, other hospital visitors and Shriners. Riley knows the hospital so well that he leads Marc from area to area, always knowing what to expect around each corner – open arms, happy faces and sometimes...banana chips.

Riley's milestone visit was no different, except for the entourage of photographers following him. Riley stopped to pose for pictures, snuggle up close with a familiar face and do what he does best, bring comfort and joy to patients who may be dealing with physical challenges or upcoming surgeries.

In addition to making frequent hospital visits, Riley has been a regular guest at Camp Care-A-Lot, put on by hospital staff for patients who otherwise would be unable to attend a summer camp. He also never misses the players' visit to the hospital that precedes the annual East-West Shrine Game. Here's a fun fact: If you take a peek at the month of January in the 2017 East-West Shrine Game calendar, you'll see him among the crowd, patiently sitting and waiting his turn to meet the all-stars.

Riley is a rescue dog from Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid Florida. The organization obtained him from a family who bought him and realized they were not prepared for the energy of the typical golden retriever puppy. Rebhun and his family applied to the rescue and on November 28, 2010, adopted Riley.

"He immediately was a hit during the walks in the neighborhood," Rebhun said. "Riley began training classes and passed his evaluation with Therapy Dog International just after his second birthday. Less than two months later, he began volunteering at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa."

Hospital employees presented Riley and Marc with a certificate of appreciation for Riley's dedication, as well as a basket of treats and toys donated by PetSmart in Wesley Chapel. He put one of his new toys to the test right away, pulling out a long, red squeaky stuffed dog to show off.

"This has been the best day," Marc said. "For me, for Riley and for all of us. Thank you so much!"

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