Imagine for an instant that you had been placed in the hospital for a long period of time. You miss your home, your family, and your pets. Into your hospital room walks a poodle dressed up with a Santa hat on her head. Meet Penny, just one of the dogs that are taking part in Stamford Memorial Hospital’s new Pet Therapy Program.
The program features pets that are part of Therapy Dogs International, Inc, a volunteer organization that provides qualified handlers and their therapy dogs for visitation to institutions, facilities, and any other place where therapy dogs are needed.
Penny came to visit for the first time to Stamford Memorial on Halloween dressed as a ladybug to visit the twelve patients that were in the hospital. Her handler is Linda Sikes. She has been involved in pet therapy for the past 10 years. Penny, Lulua Bell and Noodle are the three poodles that Linda uses for pet therapy. Linda says the dogs love it and they feel like they are on a job. Linda also teaches a class to certify other dogs to be part of the pet therapy program.
Laura Cabrera will also be visiting the hospital with Cricket, a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix.
Pets are proven to reduce stress in patients and lower blood pressure. All of the dogs are given a bath before they come, and they all have a closet full of costumes to wear on their visits. They also visit hospice patients and children that are in the hospital. They are also going to stop in at Country Elegance.
All the dogs go through basic obedience training and canine good citizen training. Currently Linda is coming to Stamford once a month and Laura comes weekly.
Angie Gass, the Director of Nurses at SMH, is looking forward to the advantages the Pet Therapy Program will have on patients. “Often times our patients are here for extended periods and often adding alternative therapies can really benefit their healing process and brighten our day.”
Welcome Penny, Lulua Bell, Noodle, and Cricket.