They are our best friends, and now they are making us feel better too. Pet dogs are being brought to visit sick children in the New South Wales Hunter region, and the results have been positive all round. The initiative is run by the not-for-profit group Delta Society, that works with therapy dogs across society including at hospitals, schools and some workplaces.
Volunteers have been bringing their pet dogs to the John Hunter Hospital to give the patients a break from medical treatment and provide some much needed cheering up. “We just bring companionship, friendship and are enhancing the quality of the resident’s or the patient’s lives”, says voluntary regional coordinator of the program, Pam Withers in an interview with the ABC. “It just brings joy and therapeutic benefits to people.”
The program is not only of benefit to the patients, but also provides a social opportunity for the volunteers as well, many of whom are retirees. “It’s very good for retired people that have got time on their hands, and they get to meet all these wonderful people,” said Ms Withers.
Suzanne Madden is a volunteer whose 9 yr old Maltese-cross-poodle Zach is a regular at the hospital. “I found that I got great enjoyment from giving back to the community, and the dogs enjoyed it as well,” she said. “Especially those that are in hospital long-term: they miss their pets and it’s just wonderful to see the joy that a short time with your dog can bring them.”
Outside of the social benefits, the program is having a positive impact on the health of the patients too. The hospital has found that after the introduction of therapy dogs was found to help reduce the recovery times of seriously ill patients by ‘up to 30%’.
These outcomes have prompted further research into the benefits of therapy dogs, with hospitals in the United Kingdom and France reportedly planning to trial programs in 2017.
Find out more about the Delta Society by watching this video of Ferris the dog visiting the Children’s Hospital in Randwick or visiting the Delta Society website here