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Sometimes, the best friend a person can have is the four-legged, furry kind.
At Ballad Health facilities, the pet therapy program brings specially trained dogs in to lift the spirits of patients and create a healing environment.
Studies have confirmed what people have known for years: Therapy dogs help people physically, emotionally and socially. Some of the benefits include comfort and happiness, as well as decreased stress, anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate, unconditional love and lifting patients’ spirits while contributing to the healing process of those who have been hospitalized. Upon seeing the positive effects the dogs have on patients, clinical leaders and nurses often request pet therapy for patients who are depressed, lonely or just need help relaxing.
Each dog in the program is trained and certified by Therapy Dogs International. TDI also requires dogs be tested around medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, crutches and walkers. Therapy dogs must be well-behaved around all ages, and able to ignore food or treats lying on the ground. Most dogs are owned, trained and handled by community volunteers. Ballad Health offers the training for those interested in being involved in the program.
Pet therapy animals wear a red bandanna and have Ballad Health identification plus the Therapy Dogs International ID on the collar for easy identification. The pawprint sign is placed beside the patient's door as an indicator of a pet therapy visit.
Becoming a pet therapy dog
- Dogs must be 1 year old to test for Therapy Dogs International (TDI).
- Dogs must pass and obtain TDI certification.
- Dogs must have current vaccinations and have current vet record of good health.
- Handlers must apply and complete all requirements to become a Ballad Health volunteer
- For more information on volunteering with a pet therapy dog, please call (423) 431-2325.