Therapy Dog Program

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The Bassett Therapy Dog program at Bassett Medical Center began in 2007 with four founding canine members, Jax, Zoya, Romeo and Penny and their owners, Vivian Beckman, Dr. Marina Bravin, Susan Miosek and Susan Hughson. Canines as ambassadors or pet therapy dogs have been widely used in nursing homes and other hospitals to visit inpatients and outpatients, as it has been documented that interaction with pets can help reduce a patient’s pain and improve his or her well-being, as well as lower blood pressure, promote relaxation, relieve agitation, anxiety and stress, and improve communication.

A therapy dog and owner visited with a patient at Bassett Medical Center only moments after she had received an upsetting diagnosis, with family nearby to support her. “The patient held onto him, hugged him and cried on him. He was still, and gentle, and nudged her cheek with his nose; he seemed to know that she needed him at that moment,” the dog’s owner related. Patients and staff comment that pet therapy at Bassett makes a difference to them.

“The therapeutic use of pets makes sense in a health care setting where patients are often anxious,” said Chief Operating Officer Bertine McKenna, Ph.D. “The animals are a source of comfort and positive focus, and we’re glad to be able to offer this program to our patients.”

New owners and their therapy dogs have come into the program and some have moved on, but the program remains an important aspect of the Service Excellence program at Bassett Medical Center.

Evidence exists that therapy dog programs provide the benefit of reducing blood pressure, anxiety and stress for patients, and staff have reported receiving many of the same benefits as the therapy dogs do their rounds. Bassett therapy dogs are all certified by Therapy Dogs International, have annual health screenings and are in full compliance with all required immunizations, as well as the Bassett Medical Center Therapy Dog Program policy.

Caring, comfort and compassion comes in many forms and at Bassett Medical Center and we are fortunate to have had so many wonderful participants and such a warm welcome for the Therapy Dog Program.

Information on Bassett’s Therapy Dog Program is available through the Volunteer Services by calling 607-547-3190.

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