PULASKI COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — When you’re feeling sick, sometimes one of the best treatments is quality time with a furry friend, which is why LewisGale Hospital Pulaski decided to add pet therapy — also called animal-assisted therapy — and offer a well-trained therapy dog to provide comfort and affection to recovering patients.
According to LewisGale Regional Health System, the first animal to help boost healing and enhance patient care at the Pulaski County hospital is a two-year-old Labradoodle named Teddy, who received a significant amount of training to become a therapy animal through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD), which requires animals be in good temperament and disposition with a reliable predictable behavior.
“Teddy required extensive behavior training and testing for the program which included vet checks, reference letters, parasite testing, special vaccinations, and handling tests,” said Heather Umberger, director of emergency services. “He is also designated a Canine Good Citizen through the American Kennel Club and was required to have a badge from Human Resources showing that he has been approved to be at the hospital, just like any employee or volunteer with our facility!”
According to Umberger, Teddy enjoys giving and getting hugs. In addition, he reportedly knows several tricks — including down, stay, shake, bring it, sit, leave it, and over — but he is still working on high fives.
“Our hope is that with holistic care for the mind, body, and soul, our patients and staff can interact with Teddy and have a bright spot in a day that may have otherwise been difficult for them,” said Umberger.
Health officials say that research has shown pet therapy can improve emotional well-being in patients coping with a range of conditions. In addition, it may even improve mobility, motor skills, and independence for those with disabilities.
“Sometimes the best ‘medicine’ is the comfort of a furry friend,” said Sean Pressman, CEO of LewisGale Hospital Pulaski. “Our pet therapy program offers a well-trained therapy dog who provides this comfort and affection as patients recover.”
In pet therapy, the health system says that volunteers and their pets who have completed training programs are brought to the patient’s bedside, with the patient’s consent.
If patients at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski would like a four-legged friend to spend time with them, they just need to ask their nurse to make the arrangements.