HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — If you feel better every time you see your pet, there’s a reason why.
A local hospital says dogs are helping their patients get better just by greeting them.
Georgina Bolden is a patient at John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell. She misses her dogs back home, so she was happy to see a therapy dog in her room Friday morning.
“You’re a pretty boy. Yes, you are,” she said.
Ziggy is a golden retriever who’s been certified for seven years, John Randolph is the first hospital he’s been a part of.
“They are nurturing. A person can be feeling ever so bad, but it’s just something about their faces that make it so comforting,” Bolden said.
Cathy Canoles has been doing this kind of volunteer work for 18 years. She’ll bring in Ziggy a couple times a month.
“He definitely knows his job. When he puts on his cape, he knows he’s going to work,” she said.
Ziggy started out by visiting nursing homes and libraries, according to Canoles. She got the idea to train him as a therapy dog when her father was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.
“I started looking into it and said, ‘Oh yeah okay.’ So I did it mainly so I could visit my dad if he ever did end up in a nursing home,” Canoles said.
Volunteers will rotate four therapy dogs throughout the month to visit patients on the center’s military and medical-surgical units. The dogs are two golden retrievers, an Australian Shepherd and a mini greyhound.
“He walks around and just makes people smile. You see them light up as soon as he walks in the room, so it’s kind of magic,” Canoles added.
Tracy Carrasquillo, the director of the Joint and Spine unit, said dogs are also a doctor’s best friend.
“It’s also pet therapy for the staff. When the staff is happy and they’re engaged it only will improve our patient’s day,” she said.
Carrasquillo added that patients could benefit from the program because some of them experience difficulty being in a different environment.
“When the patients come the a hospital it’s fear of the unknown, fear of being alone,” she said.
John Randolph Medical Center is one of the latest hospitals under HCA Virginia to launch a pet therapy program. Chippenham Hospital implemented the program in 2007 and Johnston-Willis Hospital started the program eight years ago.