Studies show a trained therapy dog can provide comfort to patients, and their families, in a hospice setting. “These studies indicate that the touch and the tail wagging and the total acceptance just increases endorphins,” which are feel good chemicals released by the brain that help decrease pain, said Ruthanne Thomas, hospice volunteer coordinator for ThedaCare At Home (TCAH) in the Waupaca area. “People just feel better.”
Thomas said TCAH plans to launch a pet therapy program within the facilities in its coverage area in Waupaca and New London. The program is funded by the Community Hospice Foundation.
“ThedaCare At Home’s hospice therapy dog program serves to provide comfort, support and animal companionship to patients, families and staff through the use of trained therapy dogs,” said Teri Metropulos, hospice manager for TCAH.
“The introduction of animals into patient’s environments is a way of humanizing healthcare,” she said, noting benefits such as diminished physical and emotional pain, reduced anxiety and happier people. “The increasing use of high technology in society really decreases high touch, and pet therapy brings high touch back into medical care.”
Thomas and Molly Johnson, owner of Canine Comfort, a dog therapy program development business, are recruiting dog owners and their dogs. They hope to begin training in October and start supervised visits later in November.
ThedaCare At Home Hospice is seeking volunteers for the new therapy dog program. Interested volunteers should have excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with many different kinds of people.
Dogs must be a minimum of 1 year old and be calm, gentle, and comfortable interacting with unfamiliar people in unfamiliar settings.
Comprehensive therapy dog training and registration is provided at no cost to handler by Molly Johnson.
To learn more about this volunteer opportunity, contact Johnson at 920-716-1890.