Monday, August 9 was a much anticipated date for all at NCH. That is when the Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) program was welcomed back after a long COVID-hiatus. Thirty dog/handler teams have begun patient visits limited to pre-approved units. New guidelines will be in place to encourage social distancing and hand sanitizing.
The teams have brushed up on their training, and participated in a lawn party on Saturday, August 7.
“The teams enjoyed limited visits at the employee entrance as COVID was easing, but they are so looking forward to being back on the floors visiting with patients and staff. It’s a good sign of getting back to more normal times,” shared Kathy King, AAT manager.
All teams are evaluated, tested and observed by tester/observers from Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD). This assures that all teams who pass the initial assessment process have done so at the same level of standards; all new teams are also mentored on the Art of Visiting. Following these procedures provides NCH with a credible, reliable and successful therapy program. After becoming certified, all dog/handler teams are expected to strictly follow ATD’s Rules and Regulations as set forth in the Member’s Handbook.
During non-COVID times, seven days a week, 365 days a year, four dog/handler teams report for duty at NCH.
Since the beginning in 2007, dogs of every size, shape and color have been represented at NCH. From a tiny five-pound Yorkie to a 140-pound Leonberger, deaf dogs, one-eyed dogs and dog cancer survivors; each and every dog contributes their unique characteristics to the program.
All NCH AAT dogs have “collector’s cards” with their photo and personal information printed on them. These cards are given to patients at the end of each visit. The cards are so popular, guests and staff also request them. Many hospital departments have all the dog’s cards displayed in their hallways and it’s not uncommon to see people spending time looking at the cards. The cards alone bring a smile to people’s faces.
The NCH AAT program is a self-sustaining, all-volunteer program. New teams enlist sponsors to cover the expenses involved with their initial training and the ongoing costs of the program are covered by donations through the NCH Foundation.
For more information about NCH’s AAT program, please visit nch.org/AAT.
Thank you to Kathy King and volunteer Kathy Tabak for help on this story.