Dogs Heal. Therapy Dogs in Children's Hospitals
When a beautiful dog approaches the hospital bed, the child just smiles. While stroking the dog's soft head, that smile spreads around the room, infectious. The focus switches from medical charts and beeping machines to the furry, four legged creature eagerly wagging his tail.
Finally the hospital visit is over and life has returned to a regular routine. Reflecting upon that painful time, one happy memory will not fade-that soft, furry dog. You can remember every detail about the therapy dog who visited the hospital and brought smiles and warmth to a cold, raw experience.
My parents bring their therapy dogs to children's hospitals every week, returning with amazing stories about very sick kids who sit up, stand up, and smile. Those sick kids ask when the dogs will visit again. They are distracted from the other hospital experiences and motivated by the positive energy of the therapy dogs.
You can train your dog to be a therapy dog. You can also call a therapy dog center to arrange a hospital visit.
Picture Courtesy of www.cafepress.com
Therapy Dogs International - A non-profit organization
If you are interested in having your dog tested to become a therapy dog, or if you would like to help the organization in another way, click on the picture. It is a link to the TDI website.
Don't Worry, Pet a Dog.
"Simply petting a dog can decrease levels of stress hormones, regulate breathing, and lower blood pressure. Research also has shown that petting releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and affection, in both the dog and the human."
Brian Hare, director of Duke University's Canine Cognition Center
My Two Favorite Therapy Dogs
Josh and Nester
Josh is a huge Newfoundland. He is the handsome guy in my bio picture. Josh is so tall that his head can lie on the hospital bed without having to lean up. Most Newfoundlands are all black. Josh is a Landseer, which means he has some St. Bernard mixed in. He's hairy, and slobbery. People either love him right away- or not at all.
Nester is a yellow lab who was my parents' guide dog puppy. Unfortunately, he didn't pass the last part of his guide dog test. It was just too loud.
For the test, a huge motorcycle blew by while he sat at the corner. He was supposed to sit still. Ah shoot, I can't even do that. Those motorcycles make me jump, cover my ears, and grind my teeth.
Well, happy ending- Nester got to come "home" to his puppy raisers- who happen to be my parents! Now Nester and Josh are buddies, working together as therapy dogs at libraries and hospitals.
I know. I know. These dogs belong to my parents. ...But I love them too.
If you click on the picture above of Josh the Newfy and Nester the Lab, a link will take you to the "Southeastern Guide Dogs". My parents were puppy raisers for this non-profit organization. They have puppy training classes, community volunteer opportunities, and a great online gift shop.
Books about Therapy Dogs
Dogs Bring the Party to the Hospital
Therapy dogs are busy at the hospital during holiday season.
Of course dogs wear costumes and themed bandanas while on the job. There's the Valentine's Day red heart theme, reindeer outfits, pumpkin hats, and green all over for the St. Patty's Day Doggy Parade.
Before the dogs get dressed, they bathe, shampoo, and get hair-dried. If lucky, they get a pedicure too.
Those doggies look and smell just marvelous.
Photo: Josh and Nester
Shampoo with color please.
Two hours to get the hair done!
Every week Josh gets a shampoo with extra "Whiteners" to make him even more handsome. Grandpa takes him outside with the hose and lathers him up real good. Hey, it looks like Josh shrunk! With all that hair wet and matted, he looks downright skinny. Josh takes it like a man. Patiently getting rubbed, scrubbed, and rinsed. He only stops to shake about 3 times.
Ready for work!
Grandpa takes Josh to work every day. He has a complicated schedule. Josh visits two hospitals and the Ronald McDonald House. He also visits two libraries. A typical day involves visiting a hospital in the morning to cheer up sick kids. In the afternoon, he goes to the library so more kids can read to him with the "Read to Dogs" program. Oh, I forgot...Josh starts every day at 6am when Grandpa goes for his 3 mile walk. Grandma and Nester come too.
The Latest News from Josh
Hot off the press from my Dad (Josh's Handler)
September 14, 2013 At the Children's Hospital
"Okay, I have to write about what just happened recently with Josh. There is a young girl that was life-flighted by helicopter to the hospital the night before Josh and I were scheduled to visit. I saw her mother in the lobby the following morning and she told me how terrified she was during the flight, both from fear of the flight itself and in worry about her daughter. We had visited this girl several times before in the hospital, and the girl really likes Josh. But I didn't expect to see her on this visit after such a traumatic event.
As we were ready to go home, a nurse called me from a patient's room down the hall and said that someone wanted to see Josh. It was that little girl. She had overruled her doctor and insisted on seeing Josh. We couldn't go in her room because it was under positive pressure, but we sat on the floor in the hall as the girl wheeled her IV stand to the door and then sat down. She picked up one of Josh's huge paws and held it between her hands as she told us how great the helicopter flight was.
What a brave little girl. No wonder Josh loves her!"
October 4, 2013
The last entry was written by my Dad. He just called me to tell me about his little friend. That little girl who Josh was visiting almost every week for the last year was named Megan. She had Cystic Fibrosis, and she passed away a couple of days ago. Josh is going to her funeral tonight as a guest of honor. This will be his first time attending an event of this nature. I suppose it comes with the territory. Things like this happen when visiting children's hospitals. My thoughts are with Megan and her family and everyone who loved her. I never met her, but she gave so much happiness to my father and Josh with her sunny personality and kind disposition.
Life is fragile. Feeling thankful for my friends and family.
Cutest Retirement Party EVER. - The therapy dog, Levi, retires. He was Josh's friend.
The guest of honor is Levi, a loving Great Dane who has comforted many sick kids. Josh is in the video too.
Party for Levi - Josh's friend Levi, retires.
Levi, a gentle giant of a Great Dane, was retiring from therapy work. Josh and friends at the children's hospital had a big party. This video was on the local news. So cute.
Nuts! - Therapy Dogs Finds Nuts in Foods
I love this. Therapy dogs are just amazing. So neat that the parents were able to raise the money to help their daughter afford this dog.
"In situations like the Newtown shootings, it makes a lot of sense that dogs would be an effective form of comfort."
"When humans show us affection, it's quite a complicated thing that involves expectations and judgments, but with a dog, it's a very uncomplicated, nonchallenging interaction with no consequences. And if you've been through a hard time, it's lovely to have that."
-Psychologist Debbie Custance of Goldsmiths College, University of London."
Nat. Geographic, "Healing Power of Dogs"
Is your dog well-trained?
One dose of doggy please. - Is your dog like a therapist?
Does your dog bring you happiness?
Therapy Dogs Visit Hospitals
About Hospital Dogs
- Therapy Dogs International
A great summary about hospital dogs.
- Volunteers Tell Dog Stories about Visits
CHOC- the Children's Hospital of Orange County, asked their dog volunteers to write about some of their experiences. Great stories.
- An Article from Dogster
Check out the video of the dogs visiting the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital. Beware- there are a couple of tear jerking stories with doggies.
- National Geographic: Furry Therapists
Therapy dogs visit survivors of the Newtown disaster.
Extra Special Training
Certified in Giving Love
Therapy dogs get a certificate with insurance when they pass a test from a special dog school called Therapy Dogs International. That certification allows them to go into schools, libraries and hospitals.
But many hospitals have their own application policies. For example, one hospital requires that handlers (owners) get blood tests. The handlers also need to get immunizations and a background check.
But wait, there's more. The applicant "shadows" another experienced dog handler- without his own dog. Next the applicant gets to take his own dog, but is still supervised while visiting hospital rooms. Finally (about a month has passed since getting the certificate), you have a fully credentialed hospital dog and handler. Phew.
Remember, these are all VOLUNTEERS. These people are dedicated.
Photo courtesy of KitchenSpot.com.
Click. Good Dog! - Clicker Training
Positive reinforcement with a click.
Therapy Dogs Help Vets with PTSD
These are recent articles about therapy dogs who are helping vets make the transition at home. The are amazing stories.
- Dogs help vets.
These dogs are specially chosen for their calm dispositions. They are called "PTSD" therapy dogs. The dogs have specialized in a field where, sometimes, they are more effective than human therapists.
- Dogs Help Veterans Recover From Stress Disorders
More great stories about dogs helping vets.
Hero Dogs - Dogs Help Disabled Veterans
This really cool organization is completely dependent on donations. Training dogs includes sending them to boarding school for intense training (after the puppy raisers) for up to two years. Yep. Gets pricey.
Check out the link by clicking on the picture. Go ahead, just click. Those Vets really appreciate it.