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.
There is much research to support the theory that keeping a pet can reduce stress levels. Worrying and stress compound the effects of seasonal affective disorder (‘SAD’). This article tells you about the various ways in which keeping a pet can help to offset those bad effects. Many pets, including cats, tropical fish and even parrots, help. My own favourites are dogs, and springer spaniels in particular.
Company for You
If your family has grown up or you live alone for other reasons, then a dog is great company. Therefore, having ‘someone to care for’ provides real and tangible health benefits. Of course, a cat is company, as is a caged bird, but they are less demanding than a dog.
A demanding pet is a good thing, because it gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning and get out in the daylight, getting exercise. With a cat you just put down the food and the cat comes and goes through the catflap in the door – there’s little benefit there for you. Of course, the cat will come and curl up on your lap in front of the TV in the evening, and that does reduce stress.
Caring Moves Your Focus
If you live alone, whether through choice or circumstances, then the effects of SAD are intensified, because you have only yourself to focus on. If you have a pet to care for, then the caring shifts some of your focus away from yourself, at least for some of the time. The less time you spend looking inwards and the more time spend looking outwards, then the better it is for you.
Laughter Releases Endorphins
Springer spaniels are generally very happy dogs and love having fun. This is good for you – my Springers made me laugh each and every day. They are smart dogs and that adds to the fun! Laughter helps release those feel-good endorphins in the brain – more SAD therapy for you.
Springers will hunt and retrieve for hours on end – they love a game of hide and seek with an old sock or glove – and this leads to more fun and exercise for you too, as well as taking your mind off your own problems. As we know, exercise is a therapy for seasonal affective disorder, realeasing those endorphins in the brain.
Unlike an aquarium of tropical fish, dogs are much more interesting, in my opinion. They have distinctive personalities, as cats do too. However, if you are unable to ‘get about’ easily – perhaps lacking a transport, or for health reasons – then tropical fish are great stress reducers too. And, let’s not forget parrots – they will talk to you!
Well, dogs are my favourite – and Springer Spaniels in particular – but generally any form of pet will add interest and diversion into your day. Dogs, and particularly Springer Spaniels, offer probably the widest range of benefits to a SAD sufferer. So, think about a pet as a possible component in the holisitic approach to beating SAD.
The author has lived with seasonal affective disorder for many years. He has devised his own holistic approach to the condition.