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Power of pets: Program brings comfort to patients

Posted Feb 24th, 2017

Power of pets: Program brings comfort to patients

Carol Privat is grateful for the launch of Niagara Health’s first Pet Therapy Program.

“I look forward to pet therapy day,” says Ms. Privat, a patient in the Woolcott Wing at Niagara Health's Welland Site. “I can’t wait to get to see them, to hold them and pet them. I just love them.”

The Welland resident says the therapy dogs have made a big difference in her care.

“When you pet them, it gives you that warm feeling,” she says. “They’re happy to see you and I’m happy to see them. It’s very relaxing.”

The Pet Therapy Program, which was launched in partnership with the Therapy Dog Program of St. John Ambulance, Niagara Region Branch, provides comfort and support to patients, their families and Niagara Health's staff. 

Therapy dogs and their volunteer handler teams started bringing cheer to patients at the Welland Site in mid-2016. The program has since expanded to the Mental Health Program at the St. Catharines Site, where patients have dubbed the visits “Furry Friday.” 

Niagara Health plans to have 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.”

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