Hospitals can be scary places, especially for children.
More and more medical facilities rely on therapy dogs to raise their patient’s spirits while they’re admitted. These friendly animals have the unique power to help ease the discomfort of being sick and in a strange place. A pediatric hospital in the United Kingdom has now taken this initiative even further with their team of six golden retrievers, affectionately called the “dog-tors.”
Milo, Hattie, Quinn, Jessie, Leo and Archie are now making their rounds on the floors of Southampton Children’s Hospital. This volunteer-run group visit sick children every day, providing slobbery kisses, soft fur to stroke, and plenty of love and cuddles for patients who really need a pick-me-up.
Seven years ago a little boy in the hospital was having a hard time wearing a surgical mask. Unused to having his face covered by a mask, the child protested and wriggled until the medical staff decided to bring in a therapy dog as a distraction.
“One of the therapy dogs was happy to poke his nose in a spare mask and have a sniff,” said volunteer Lyndsey Uglow. When the boy saw the dog “wearing” a mask, he suddenly felt unafraid and decided it was not such a scary ordeal after all. Caregivers were inspired and wondered what other fears the dogs could help conquer.
Since launching the SCH Therapy dog program the dog-tors have helped demonstrate a wide array of medical procedures. Staff members are even creating videos of the dogs undergoing everyday procedures and tests so that kids can see it’s no big deal. The dogs don’t actually go through with the procedures, but they will happily pose for an X-Ray and sit still while having their blood pressure checked.
Jessie says she’s particularly fond of demonstrating echocardiograms. “She is very happy to lie on her back and have her tummy rubbed,” she explained.
Caregivers say that even the most nervous patient often bursts into “surprise and giggles” when they see the dog-tors demonstrating whatever procedure lies ahead. Not only that, but studies show that simply having a dog present during stressful tests and procedures dramatically reduces anxiety in patients of all ages. Just knowing that the dogs are at the hospital makes young patients more willing to go in for medical evaluations!
“The children seem to trust them, and for many the fact that the dog has done it too (had an X-ray) persuades them that it is ok,” Jessie explained.
Just when we thought dogs couldn’t get any more helpful or loving we hear a story like this. Dogs truly have unlimited potential to heal their companions mentally and now, physically. Let’s help this is the start of a new trend in healthcare to bring more dog-tors to sick children worldwide!
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