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Niagara Health launches first Pet Therapy Program for patients

Posted Oct 6th, 2016

A new program at Niagara Health has been a paw-sitive experience for our patients.  Niagara Health’s first Pet Therapy Program, which was launched in partnership with the Therapy Dog Program of St. John Ambulance, Niagara Region Branch, is providing comfort and support to patients, their families and our staff.

Therapy dogs and their volunteer handler teams started bringing cheer to our patients in the Woolcott Wing at our Welland Site a few months ago. The program has since expanded to the Mental Health Program at our St. Catharines site, where patients have dubbed the visits “Furry Friday.” Niagara Health is planning to have our four-legged friends visit patients at other sites in the future.

“The energy that radiates off the patients when you seem them visiting with the pet therapy dogs is extraordinary,” says Natalee Little, a Co-ordinator of Volunteer Resources at Niagara Health. “The peace and sense of calm it bring to the patients with a simple pet of a dog is truly remarkable. The Recreation Therapists on the units that St. John Ambulance currently visits have said that it is not only great therapy for the patients, but for the staff as well.”

Pawsitive partnership 

Dr. Suzi Peters, Coordinator of the St John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program in Niagara, adds: “We are honoured to be partnering with Niagara Health on this wonderful program. We hope the visits from the dogs brighten the moods of patients and their families. A visit from a therapy dog can also help bring a sense of normalcy to a patient. Being in a hospital for an extended period often means patients are away from their own family pets. Spending a few minutes with a loving dog may give them a much-needed boost.”

Niagara Health System