Healing with Help from a Furry Friend
As three-year-old Amelia endured weeks of cancer treatment at Hasbro Children’s, nothing her family or caregivers did could make her smile. Then four-legged Moby arrived.
As the Golden Retriever approached her bedside, Amelia’s face immediately brightened. The dog wasn’t there to check her vital signs, insert a needle into her port, or ask her to take medication. He was there simply to bring her comfort and joy.
“Amelia had been very agitated, but when the dog would come in, she’d instantly calm down for as long as the dog could stay,” says Amelia’s mom, Carly. “We have two dogs at home, so when she had pet therapy it was like she forgot she was in the hospital.”
Amelia’s moments of happiness during the most difficult time in her life were made possible because of donors. Pet therapy is an important therapeutic tool for the philanthropy-funded Child Life specialists who support patients and their families. A dog’s presence in the hospital setting, when appropriate, has many benefits, including improving communication, promoting mobility, relieving stress, and boosting mood.
“When you bring a dog into the room, it can change everything,” says Child Life Specialist Kristin Murray. “Families tell us that just through that tactile experience of petting the dog, or sometimes hugging, they can see their child’s heart rate and blood pressure go down on the monitors.”
Kristin can recall countless stories just like Amelia’s, including one example of a teenager who requested a dog to cuddle with immediately following brain surgery.
“It was such a comfort to her,” Kristin says.
It is not only patients who benefit from the hospital’s six extensively trained pet therapy dogs. Their presence is also therapeutic for staff, who rely on their visits during long, hectic, and emotionally draining shifts.