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Hospitals seek tail waggin’ morale lifters

Bronx Times
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Wanted: a few good dogs.

Their mission: a wagging tail, a comforting smile, and a furry body made for petting by hospital patients, young and old.

That’s the recruiting call from two Bronx hospitals seeking special visits from a furry, four-legged tail-waggers.

Teams of trained dog and owner visit inpatient divisions at Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital, spending time with patients who need a little companionship.

Hospital officials say the visits improve patients’ morale, while research shows that visits of therapy dogs significantly reduces stress and anxiety.

Pet owners who’d like contibute to comforting patients, from young to old, at the two hospitals, can now attend new therapy dog training classes for the two hospital’s D.O.C. (Dogs on Call) program.

In order to enter the program, owners and their dogs must participate in an evaluation on Tuesday evening, Oct. 15. If right for the job, dog and owner will a training course of five weekly classes on Tuesdays, from October 22 to November 19, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The course, which leads to certification, is valued at $200 and will take place at Jacobi Medical Center in Building 4 in the Penthouse (PH).

Once a dog is certified, each volunteer team is asked to visit the hospital twice a month for at least one hour.

For additional information, contact the Public Affairs Department at (718) 918-3827.

The program, which began in 2011 has received an enthusiastic response from both patients and staff.

It’s also continued to draw dog owners and their pets dedicated to providing therapy to patients on a regular basis.

Lana Wechsler worked to establish D.O.C. at Jacobi and NCBH after starting a similar program at Cornell Medical Center.

“When I had my own personal tragedy, my dog Jasper made me go outside and interact with the world,” said Wechsler. “So I know these visits can go a long way in encouraging patients, while also adding a little bit of home to their hospital stays.”

Each therapy dog owner-volunteer has a personal story of a patient who was profoundly moved by their visit.

There was the day that Elvis, a West Highlight Terrier, visited Jacobi’s rehabilitation floor and met a patient with two broken legs. As Elvis walked up to her bed, she leaned over and picked him up. Holding the little dog in her arms, she began to weep from happiness, saying that Elvis reminded her of her own dog that she would soon see when she returned home.

Updated 10:34 am, October 11, 2013
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