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Sit, Stay, Smile: Pet Therapy Program Helps Patients Recover In A Unique Way

Ava, a schnauzer, provides therapy in special-needs settings, often with children on the autism spectrum.
Ava, a schnauzer, provides therapy in special-needs settings, often with children on the autism spectrum. Photo Credit: Westchester Medical Center

For patients at several Westchester Medical Center Health Network hospitals across the Hudson Valley region, the doctors are currently in -- It just so happens that they also have four legs and love treats and going for walks.

A member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, MidHudson Regional Hospital has a vibrant pet-therapy program that engages and comforts patients as they recover. Pet therapy programs are also offered at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of WMCHealth in Valhalla, as well as Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla and HealthAlliance Hospitals in Kingston.

The term “pet therapy” includes animal-assisted therapy and other activities to help people recover from, or better cope with, health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental-health disorders. Additionally, animal-assisted therapy has been shown to significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue.

Jacqueline Forbes, manager of integrated guest services at MidHudson Regional Hospital, oversees volunteer activity, including the pet-therapy program. “I feel that the dogs help the patients improve socially and emotionally," she said. "Sometimes the therapy dog may be a patient’s only visitor, and being near a fuzzy little animal just puts a smile on your face.”

MidHudson Regional Hospital’s therapy dogs are trained via its partner, The Good Dog Foundation . Founded in 1998, Good Dog’s mission is to ease human suffering and promote recovery from trauma and stress using animal-assisted therapy services provided through professionally trained and supervised volunteer teams. These volunteer teams each consist of a human handler and therapy dog. Good Dog provides training and certification to dogs who meet certain minimum training criteria.

To meet several of the dogs helping patients across the county today, continue reading via Advancing Care in the Hudson Valley.

Daily Voice produced this article as part of a paid Content Partnership with our advertiser, Westchester Medical Center

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