Friendly eyes. A soft, silky coat. Wagging tails. They come in all colors and sizes, and they’re here to cheer. They’re the pet therapy dogs that bring stress-relieving joy, healing and unconditional love to patients, visitors and staff. Pet therapy can lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health and release endorphins that bring relief and calm, and can even help reduce physical pain. Lake Health offers pet therapy visits through its Volunteer Services program.
Jeff and Ava
Jeff Mace, a member of the Volunteer Auxiliary Board, and his 4-year-old Australian Labradoodle Ava have been visiting West Medical Center since 2016. Jeff―a dog-lover with a background in psychology, philosophy and theology―looked into pet therapy as a way to touch people’s lives and make them better. He chose Ava because of her temperament and has found she loves to do the work.
“For patients, family members and visitors, Ava’s love of people brings distraction and escape from their present circumstances,” Jeff says. “For patients who have dogs at home, the visits are a reminder of the special bond of friendship they’re missing in the hospital. And for staff―especially nursing staff―Ava brings immediate joy and relief from their truly stressful and emotionally-draining jobs. Ava just loves people and brings so much joy. I think this is one of the most rewarding things to do in life to make a connection and have a purpose!”
Maggie and Zoe
Maggie Advey has been taking her 9-year-old black Goldendoodle Zoe to TriPoint Medical Center since 2011. After retiring from teaching, Maggie, whose sister-in-law was already involved in pet therapy, saw the benefit and decided to try it too. She chose Zoe for her quiet, calming, but happy personality.
“Inside patient rooms, Zoe truly seems to sense which people need some TLC and she knows just how to give it,” says Maggie. “Alternately, in the hallways, when Zoe sees staff members she knows and loves, she gets silly and playful, which is just what they need. Zoe gives people a brief moment―a distraction and connection―with an animal who is really happy to be there for them. Her focus on them makes them feel important, happy and loved.”
“Tension melts away when people interact with the dogs,” says Loretta Kruse, director of Volunteer Services. “We have terrific people volunteering in programs throughout the hospital, but considering its tremendous positive impact on people’s lives, we’d sure love to have more pet therapy partners!”
“Because of the benefits, in my opinion there can never be too many therapy dogs,” says Jeff.
All pet therapy volunteers and their dogs must have completed Therapy Dog International or Pet Partners certification classes, and dogs must be up to date on all health requirements.
Are you interested in making a difference by becoming a Pet Therapy partner at Lake Health? Call today! West: 440-953-6049 TriPoint: 440-354-1665