‘Lance’ therapy part of MD Wellness services

  • Mary King, a nurse practitioner who works with her husband, Dr. Dennis King, at MD Wellness Center, is pictured with Lance, the couple’s Golden Retriever and beloved canine who has come to serve as an unofficial “pet therapy dog” since last March. - Michelle Hollenhead

  • Dr. Dennis King with Lance, MD Wellness Center’s beloved pet who has come to serve as an unofficial “pet therapy dog” since March 2020. - Michelle Hollenhead

A Farragut couple’s business plans were derailed by COVID-19, but with a little help from their Golden Retriever, Lancelot, better known as Lance, they are thriving as the pandemic still rages.

Dr. Dennis King and his wife, Mary King, had opened MD Weight Loss Center along Grigsby Chapel Road in late 2019.

“We were just getting off the ground when the pandemic hit,” said Mary, who is a nurse practitioner at the clinic. “We were still deemed essential — we never closed — but in the meantime we had also started seeing veterans who needed to be evaluated for the Veteran’s Association regarding their benefits,” adding, “There is a huge backlog of cases.”

Around the same time, in March of 2020, the couple lost their 15-year old Golden Retriever, Guinevere, also known as “Guinnie.”

“Lance grew up with Guinnie, so when she passed, we didn’t have the heart to leave him home alone,” Mary said of their beloved canine companion, who turned 8 Christmas Eve. “Since COVID was in full swing in March and there wasn’t much foot traffic in our clinic, we decided to bring Lance to work with us one day.”

Immediately, Lance fell into a previously untapped role as a “therapy dog,” and Mary said he has been coming to the office with the couple “every day since.

“He’s not certified, but we say he seems to be ‘self-certified,’” she added. “Lance became our therapy dog for our family medicine patients (their clinic has since been renamed MD Wellness Center), especially our disabled veterans, many of whom suffer with PTSD.”

The gentle giant “is 115 pounds of love, and when veterans come in he seems to know they need him more than others,” Mary said.

“Occasionally a veteran will come in with a spouse or companion, and Lance will say ‘hi’ to the other person for a moment, but always gravitates toward the vet as if he knows they need him,” she added.

“I think having him here has been very helpful for our patients,” Dennis said. “They are able to relax and feel more comfortable in the environment, especially if it is their first visit.

“It can feel threatening to walk into a doctor’s office where you have never been before, but when Lance comes up to our new patients, they know everything is good,” he added.

The couple also makes sure their patients feel comfortable with Lance’s attentiveness. “I had one veteran who Lance was really giving attention to,” Mary said. “I told him if Lance got too pesty we could put him out of the exam room.”

However, with tear-filled eyes, the veteran responded, “‘No, he’s perfect,” she said. “That veteran did not let go of Lance the entire appointment. Lance seemed to know he needed extra attention and unconditional love.

“We love our Veterans, and we think Lance helps us show that love. It is a privilege to help them and we always thank them for their service.”

Most veterans also tell the couple their doctor visit “was the best one they ever had,” Mary said, noting the practice now typically sees about 70 veterans each month.

The newfound kinship with Lance typically doesn’t end with the doctor visit. The canine also has been a popular addition to their business Facebook page. “He has certainly been the surprise hit of our practice, especially in the midst of this pandemic,” Dennis remarked.

“We are both just so grateful we have still been able to shift gears and help others during this time,” Mary added.

Call 865-392-1717 or visit mdwellnesscenterofknoxville.com for more information.