The Best Medicine: Pet Facilitated Therapy

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Meet Gracie, a golden retriever trained to comfort and console.

Gracie is one of five certified therapy dogs who make regular trips to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.

The visits are part of the hospital’s pet-facilitated therapy program. Such programs are based in large part on studies that show that patients, like Isabella, who interact with animals exhibit reduced stress levels and improved emotional well-being.

Therapy Dogs Inc., Delta Society and Therapy Dogs International have certified more than 40,000 handler-animal teams to serve in therapy programs across the country. Outside of health-related facilities, volunteer teams also visit schools, libraries, courthouses and crisis centers. Several volunteer dogs were called to Ground Zero to provide comfort to the men and women working in the rescue effort, said Bill Kueser, Delta Society’s vice president of marketing. Health care providers, however, remain the most common institutions to incorporate animals into their services, he said.

Children’s program began informally in the late 1980s through the hospital’s volunteer services department. Nancy Ethington, Gracie’s owner, and two other volunteers streamlined the program to make it an official hospital service in 1995.

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17 thoughts on “The Best Medicine: Pet Facilitated Therapy”

  1. How refreshing to hear the hearty giggle from that little girl. Great program.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

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  2. I just got my dog certified to do therapy and I cannot wait to start. He’s a Newfoundland and is 138 pounds of pure lovebug!!!!! Hooray for the gentle giants!

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  3. My girls Cierra and Maggie are certified Therapy Dogs. They love their work…Cierra is also a Tail Waggin’ Tutor also…she loves her kids as they love her! My girls bring a ray of sunshine to their patients!

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  4. I love therapy animals and have two certified dogs of my own – Skye, a German Shepherd and Buddy, a golden retriever. Just to make one correction, Delta, Therapy Dogs. Inc and Therapy Dogs International do not certify dogs.

    They test dogs and register them to a national group. Certifying animals is a separate and longer process and involving weeks of training for the animal and education on the part of the human side of the team.

    The kids at the hospital looked like they are having a wonderful time. This is a growing field and a wonderful way to become involved in the community.

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