A Patient’s Best Friend
Health care is going to the dogs! Don’t be surprised to see a wagging tail and furry ears in the halls of Asante Ashland Community Hospital. Friendly canines are a welcome part of the hospital’s volunteer program and patient care services.
“Research shows that pet therapy benefits patients, and the anecdotal evidence we have seen mirrors that,” says Dawn Dille, who has overseen the pet therapy program at Asante Ashland since 2011. “The biggest advantages include reducing stress and anxiety, or simply putting patients in a better mood.”
The hospital requires that all dogs are certified by Therapy Dogs International, which evaluates and tests a dog’s temperament and behavior. Started in 1976, the volunteer organization has more than 25,000 certified dogs providing service to hospitals, nursing homes, and other places where therapy dogs are needed.
Porter, pet therapy dog with patient
Volunteer dog handler Cheryl Levie believes the real impact of Morrie, her Jack Russell terrier, comes from his gentle and caring ways. “One day we went into a room and I could tell the patient was seriously ill,” says Cheryl, a retired emergency room nurse. “I asked if he wanted Morrie on the bed and he nodded because it was so difficult for him to speak. Morrie was super careful not to put his head on the patient, but rested it right next to him. Morrie was so sensitive and sweet.”
Regular volunteers to Asante Ashland Community Hospital are Kay Schule and Porter, her Labradoodle. “It’s really amazing how pet therapy helps patients,” says Kay, who started her journey with pet therapy after seeing its impact during her brother’s stay in a convalescent hospital. “We will go into the emergency department and a child who was scared immediately turns calm; patients who had been nauseous all day suddenly feel better; patients on pain medication take a look at Porter and tell their nurse, ‘I don’t need the pills today.’”
Pet therapy often comes in unexpected moments. “One woman stopped us in the hall and said, ‘This is exactly what I need today,’ and she got down on the floor with Porter to pet him,” Kay says. “At that moment she needed something other than technology or prayer or medicine – and we were there for her."