April 25, 2022
PULASKI, VA. – LewisGale Hospital Pulaski announced the addition of pet therapy, also called animal-assisted therapy, offering a well-trained therapy dog who provides comfort and affection as patients recover.
The hospital’s first animal to help boost healing and enhance patient care is a 2.5 year old Labradoodle named Teddy, who received a significant amount of training to become a Therapy Animal through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD). ATD requires animals be in good temperament and disposition with a reliable predictable behavior.
“Teddy required extensive behavior training and testing for the program which included vet checks, reference letters, parasite testing, special vaccinations, and handling tests,” said Heather Umberger, director of emergency services. “He is also designated a Canine Good Citizen through the American Kennel Club and was required to have a badge from Human Resources showing that he has been approved to be at the hospital, just like any employee or volunteer with our facility!”
Umberger added that Teddy enjoys giving and getting hugs. She also said he knows several tricks including down, stay, shake, bring it, sit, leave it, and over; he is working on high fives.
“Our hope is that with holistic care for the mind, body, and soul, our patients and staff can interact with Teddy and have a bright spot in a day that may have otherwise been difficult for them,” said Umberger.
Research has shown that pet therapy can improve emotional well-being in patients coping with a variety of conditions, and may even improve mobility, motor skills, and independence of those with disabilities.
“Sometimes the best ‘medicine’ is the comfort of a furry friend,” said Sean Pressman, chief executive officer of LewisGale Hospital Pulaski. “Our pet therapy program offers a well-trained therapy dog who provides this comfort and affection as patients recover.”
In pet therapy, volunteers and their pets who have completed training programs are brought to the patient's bedside, with the patient's consent. If patients at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski would like a four-legged friend to spend time with them, they simply have to ask their nurse to make the arrangements.