New therapy dog teams are forming for the Animal-Assisted Therapy Program at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH). Dogs (and their volunteer handlers) brighten patients’ spirits and improve their health by reducing anxiety, blood pressure and more, according to research from Purdue University’s Center for the Human-Animal Bond.
“We walk into a hospital room with a dog, and the patient immediately begins to smile,” said Kathy King, a volunteer dog handler for almost 10 years and manager of the NCH Animal-Assisted Therapy Program.
“We watch the faces of patients brighten – even the faces of those in tough health circumstances,” said program volunteer Amy Mullally of Barrington, who brings her Goldendoodles for hospital visits. Mullally said a patient in hospice opened her eyes for the first time when she entered with her dog.
Former NCH patient Bill Brown and his wife Mary would agree. Bill was hospitalized for more than 40 days.
“When he was in the hospital, he was crabby, depressed; he wanted to sulk,” said Mary. “But, boy, when a dog came into his room, the lights went on; he became a different person.”
In 2016, volunteer handlers and their dogs made more than 12,300 patient visits at NCH. Currently there are 65 dog teams with plans to add 15 more.
Dogs must have had basic obedience training, respond to voice commands, walk on a loose leash, refrain from jumping or barking and be at least 18 months old to qualify. Applications are being accepted through July 31, and qualifiers must go through a two-hour temperament and obedience evaluation by professional dog trainers on Aug. 5 at a cost of $30. Three-day training for qualifiers is $125 and will be held Oct. 14, 15 and 21 at the hospital.
Learn more about the program. For more information, contact Kathy King at 847-618-7968 or firstname.lastname@example.org.