They may not be able to perform surgeries or take someone’s blood pressure but the effect of dogs on patients (and staff) in hospitals is profound.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting up with two of the Community Therapy Dogs volunteers who take their dog to the Peter Lougheed Centre (PLC) in N.E. Calgary. When I first heard that they were visiting the Emergency Unit I was more than a little surprised: there’s me visualizing blood spurting everywhere or limbs falling off after a bad accident! But no, reality is a lot different. So Tanya and Sam educated me as to what really happens in emergency and what it has meant to them personally as well as the effect on both the patients and staff of bringing their dog to visit.
They have been taking their dog, Darci, to the extremely busy PLC Emergency Unit for a little over a year. Because they both work full time, their visits are normally in the evenings and they have found such satisfaction in visiting Emergency that they average 2-3 visits each week. On arrival at the Unit, staff will indicate which patients they feel would benefit most from Darci’s help, with the overhead page often asking “could Darci come to XYZ area when available”. Both Tanya and Sam told me that they really feel part of the health care team, whether it’s through Darci allowing patients to pet her or be around to comfort them or they themselves being able to chat with patients about Darci and taking their minds off of their current medical issues.
It’s not only the patients who receive therapeutic help from Darci. Relatives or friends of patients who are naturally concerned about their loved ones health have also received comfort by being with her.
The couple told me about the relationship that Darci has developed with the staff in Emergency. To say that the staff are happy to see Darci on her visits would be an understatement! In one of the most stressful units in the hospital, Darci adds a layer of comfort and is able to help de-stress the staff when they need it most. She has won the hearts of the staff to the point when, on her birthday, Darci had a party thrown for her, including a dog-friendly birthday cake! Recently I witnessed firsthand what it means to the staff to have Darci visit. My wife was in Emergency for a few hours and, without any prompting, one of the nurses told us how much the staff were looking forward to Darci showing up that evening and what it meant to them all to see their favourite furry friend. And she had no idea at the time that we were involved with Community Therapy Dogs!
As a final accolade to the therapeutic work they are doing at the PLC, at the request of the Emergency Nurses, Tanya, Sam and Darci will be speaking (or barking!) at an upcoming Emergency Nurses conference in the Fall in Red Deer.
All power and thanks to the little Sheltie with the big heart!