The dog days of summer are in full swing, but for those who find themselves in the Edward Hospital in Illinois they enjoy dog days all year long. For seventeen years, the hospital has been running the Animal-Assisted Therapy Program to give patients the option of a dog stopping by their hospital room while they are there as patients. Cynthia Brooks, the program administrator, says the program is the first of its kind in the United States. Since starting 17 years ago, they have had breeds of all shapes and sizes—70 dogs in total. They have seen large dogs weighing 230 pounds and pint size pups around 4 pounds. Right now, they have 75 dogs and their handlers in the program—but are always looking for more.
Cynthia says studies show that patients are helped by dogs visiting their room—even in many cases meaning that patients need less pain medication. Many patients have dogs of their own and are missing their four legged family members so seeing a dog is an emotional experience. Many patients are happy, excited, and some even cry with joy. The dogs and their handlers are always welcomed with open arms and patients are so happy to see them. All dogs go through a screening process and extensive training before being accepted into the program.
A few requirements of the dogs include understanding basic commands and they need to do well around both people and other dogs. More than anything, the program is in place to help comfort patients when they need it the most. Their visits to the hospital room is a great way for people to help divert their attention away from their illness and perhaps enjoy their stay a bit more. Whether they are recovering from surgery or facing a battle with cancer, the dogs are there to offer love and comfort—which everyone can agree is great medicine.