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Therapy dogs are amazing with patients, care givers and families

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On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, the Wichita Eagle published an interesting story about therapy dogs worth sharing – our Pomeranian Winston was a therapy dog for a number of years at a rehabilitation hospital and it was so truly rewarding an experience - perhaps a New Year’s resolution for some in the reading audience could be developing their own therapy dogs.

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When it’s the day for therapy dogs to pay a visit in a hospital or nursing home or often in a group home, the dogs leave peace, good will, and great feelings behind. Their subtle dog affection gestures always make an indelible impression on both confirmed animal lovers and even people with little exposure to dogs.

Jordan Newton was recently hospitalized in Wesley Medical Center. Newton quickly formed an affection for a 4 1/2-year-old Rottweiler named Ike. He was gentle and kind and made a lasting impression. The dog –large, heavy and bulky – made like a small dog and attempted to become a lap dog. This so charmed Newton that Ike became the favorite of the 11 therapy dogs that ranged from a huge Great Pyrenees to a tiny Pomeranian.

Ike’s handler is Kelly Truby, a teacher at Central Christian Academy. The dog’s job is to make people smile as he brings them love. He’s been socialized and exposed to many people from his earliest puppy days and as he grew up, he learned good manners. Ike has become a remarkably therapy dog during his adult years.

Ike, Pumpkin, Tumbleweed, Penske and other therapy dogs in Wichita regularly make visits to pediatric patients at Wesley, at local pediatric oncologists' offices, care homes and rehabilitation hospitals. These gifted, loving dogs visit even terminal cancer patients. They are trained and tested to remain alert to health care settings. The dogs, who are impeccably obedient, are permitted to wander from one room to another, allowing patients to hug and pet them. The handlers’ jobs are making small talk and filling in the time as the dogs perform their little miracles.

Studies and research substantiate the health benefits of the dog visits. It has been conclusively proven that therapy dogs reduce stress hormones, bring down blood pressure, reduce pain and anxiety and help improve the moods of humans.

Dogs are even allowed into hospitals now. Because of patient safety and sanitary demands, the rules for therapy dogs are strict. Dogs are cleaned and groomed prior to every visit. They must be certified in good health and, of course, they must be well behaved.

So the four-legged therapists visit myriad settings including to people with maximum stresses. The dogs provide a remarkable diversion and almost no one is immune to their therapeutic charms.

Even better, the dog diversion is a welcome addition in everyone’s day, from patients and staff and families.

In addition to bringing a little joy and honest affection to patients, health care professionals say:

A few minutes with a therapy dog can help rejuvenate and decrease burnout among medical staff attending sick patients and can help distract and comfort family members.

Source: Wichita Eagle

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