Pet therapy brings comfort to hospital patients
Tracy Toth and volunteer Wilma Stubbs visit different patients throughout McDowell Hospital on Wednesdays.
By: Landdis Hollifield
Published: November 19, 2011 » Comments | Post a Comment
Every Wednesday afternoon, visitors at McDowell Hospital will notice a four-legged guest being lead to various rooms throughout the hospital.
Abbey is a therapy dog whose duty is to bring comfort and companionship to those at the medical facility.
The 3-year-old springer spaniel was rescued at an early age from a puppy mill and since then has been working with her owner Tracy Toth to help others.
Toth hopes she and her dog can make difference in the lives of others.
Abbey and I have been doing this for over a year now, said Toth. Patients really enjoy Abbey’s visits. Many of them just love rubbing her head and talking to her.
To become a therapy dog, Abbey, along with Toth, had to go through training.
The training for this program is a two part test, Toth said. I had to be tested to see how I got along with patients and Abbey had to be tested to make sure she could handle being in a hospital.
Helping Toth is volunteer Wilma Stubbs, who makes sure that patients and their rooms are prepared for a visit.
My job is to go in ahead of Tracy and Abbey and make sure patients still want them to come, then I put a sheet over their bedding and make sure that the room is ready for Abbey to come in, said Stubbs.
The therapy dog, whose part of the Paws on a Mission program, has become famous for her demeanor and many guests are pleasantly surprised at how calm she is.
Many patients enjoy the company of an animal, especially when they don’t have pets at home.
My husband would love this. I really wish he could be here right now, said Sheila Romaniello. We both really love pets and having her visit has been really nice.
At the end of every visit, Abbey makes sure to see her favorite staff members of the hospital.
Abbey and I always stop by and see different people before we leave, said Toth. I’m just glad that we can come and volunteer our time to help others.
Currently there are three therapy dogs that take turns visiting patients every Wednesday. For more information on the therapy dog program, visit mcdowellhospital.org.
To mark Movember, a charity initiative held throughout November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, adventurer Charley Boorman reveals how he discovered his own cancer
Charley Boorman gives an affectionate pat to Ziggi, the springer spaniel sitting at his side, and says:”It’s thanks to him and my wife that I’m alive.”
The adventurer and biker, famous for his televised travels both on his own and with best friend Ewan McGregor in TV series such as Long Way Round, has survived numerous crashes and mishaps on the road, and despite them all, he felt fighting fit, apart from one small, niggling problem.
But in January last year, his wife of 24 years, Olivia, took their dog to the vet for his annual check-up. The vet raised concern that one of the dog’s testicles was harder than the other, which could be a sign of testicular cancer.
“By pure coincidence, a few weeks before that I’d mentioned a similar change in one of mine to Ollie.
“Now and then I’d get a throbbing ache there, a bit like after you’ve been kicked where it hurts,” says Boorman, who’s currently touring in his Charley Boorman Live UK Tour.
“It wasn’t really that painful, though, and I’d dismissed it as just one of those aches and pains you get now and again and ignored it.
“In common with many men I was pretty hopeless about having check-ups and had never given much thought to testicular cancer.”
Boorman, 45, is revealing his experience to support Movember – a charity initiative that takes place in November where men worldwide raise funds and awareness of men’s health issues and cancers which affect them, specifically testicular and prostate cancer.
Clean-shaven men are sponsored to grow moustaches during the month and last year, in the UK, £11.7 million was raised for cancer charities.
“Ollie came straight back from the vets and insisted I get myself checked out and even then I still wasn’t alarmed,” he says.
“Reluctantly, I went to the GP and he immediately took it incredibly seriously and everything moved very quickly.”
Around 2,100 cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK.
Springer spaniel health issues and problems (as with most other pets) can be divided into several categories:
2. Physical Development
4. Accident-related and day-to-day problems
For convenience, I include ‘congenital’ under hereditary (congenital means ‘present at birth but not hereditary’). Any serious congenital problem would result in the early death of the pup, so you will not meet such conditions unless you are breeding springers, and even then it is unlikely.
The main hereditary problems that springers face are hip dysplasia and eye problems. Hip dysplasia (malformation of the hip joint) can be screened for in early life, and the parents are often a good indicator of this. Eye problems – retinal dysplasia can be scanned for when a pup, but progressive atrophy can skip generations and is harder to test for. Canine Fucosidosis (a metabolic disorder), which appeared in the 1990’s, has been largely bred out now.
Though not technically a hereditary problem, ear infections are fairly common in Springers, because of their floppy ears.
Because springer spaniels are such energetic and fun-loving animals, then owners have to be careful not to give them too much exercise when their bones, joints and ligaments are developing. Yes, they love to ‘spring’, but it should not be encouraged before about a year old; they will in any case jump of their own accord. Other forms of exercise should be controlled too, in line with their age and development.
The main problems here are due to overfeeding and/or lack of exercise, the solutions to which are obvious.
Some authorities suggest that springers have an increased risk of ‘diabetes mellitus’ in common with about 18 other breeds. This is sugar diabetes and is most common in dogs in middle to old age.
Accidents and Day-to-Day Issues
Apart from ticks, diarrhoea and the normal dog-type problems, springers often swallow stones – they sometimes retrieve a bit too much! Most will come through naturally, but might require the services of a veterinarian for a big stone.
Hunting dogs are attracted to ‘game’, and that can lead to disease when rats are involved. Weils’s disease (leptospirosis) is caught from rats, but like Adenovirus and Distemper, his vaccinations should provide protection.
Snake bites can be a problem in some areas and if you live a long way from a veterinarian then a pet ‘medicine chest’ might be an idea.
One final point. Dogs often regurgitate their food (‘bring it back up’) as part of their digestive process. It is normal, and although unpleasant to see them eating it again, that too is normal. It does not always mean that they are ill or have eaten something rotten. If regurgitation is a very common occurrence though, then discuss it with your veterinarian.
You know your dog best, and if you think that he is ‘out of sorts’ then that is the best indicator of a problem. Has he done anything unusual or has he been anywhere that he wouldn’t normally go? Have you changed his food or routine? All these may give you clues before you take him to the pet hospital.
Think about taking out Pet Health Insurance – good policies will even cover your dog for surgery. As always, read the small print!