Most people dread the hospital since it is associated with illnesses. Depending on the duration of the illness, you could stay in the hospital for days or even months. You’ll miss out on your regular routines and possibly your job and important appointments. This is also true for people fighting depression.
In Torrance Memorial Hospital, patients receive special visitors to help them cope with their physical and mental conditions. Pat Carlson, a dog advocate, brought her dog to visit patients in the hospital. The presence of the dog made a massive impact on patients’ disposition and perception.
Because of the positive effect that dogs bring to ailing people, Pat co-chaired the Pet Visitation Program of the hospital. Together with co-chairperson NorLu Longtin, they developed a system of screening and training volunteer dogs and their owners.
Kirby dog is one of the hundreds of therapy dogs to qualify for the pet visitation program. Not every dog is fit to become therapy dogs. The program would usually decline 75% of volunteer applications because the dog wasn’t prepared for the tasks at hand.
They imposed a strict screening policy to protect the patients too. Therapy dogs should be at least two years of age and must complete two obedience training with their owners. They must have a happy face, friendly behavior, and maintain an easy-going demeanor all throughout the visit. They also need health clearance from their veterinarians to prevent the spread of infection from dogs to humans.
But that’s not all; the dogs must past the actual test. They introduce dogs to real patients and observe to see how it reacts. When patients carry them up and put them on their lap, the dog must establish eye connection. It must show a calm demeanor all throughout the interaction.
After the strict screening, the dog’s owner has to attend the initial training and general hospital volunteer orientation. Finally, the dog and his owner will undergo 13 hours of supervised hospital practice shifts before they could visit patients on their own.
Source: Torrance Memorial Hospital via Insider