Pet therapy helps patients heal at Northern NY hospital - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Pet therapy helps patients heal at Northern NY hospital

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Elle Berger and her dog, Curry, started visiting patients at the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh five years ago in hopes of brightening someone's day.

"It just gives them a chance to cuddle, and have something furry and warm and lovely with them," Berger said.

CVPH has gone to the dogs-- or rather the dogs come to them-- for "Pet Therapy," a program where volunteers certify their pets and bring them to visit patients at the hospital.

"This is the first time I've been involved, but I like dogs," said Frank Ashline, a patient.

To become a therapy pet, a dog must undergo a series of obedience tests. They then get certified. These pets visit any and all patients. Special requests can also be made.

"People who request through the nurses stations for us to have special visitations when families come here and they miss their dogs. They will send an email out to us asking us to visit a certain patient in a certain room," explained Margot Zeglis, the pet therapy coordinator at CVPH.

Curry, a border terrier, is 1 of 18 dogs in the Pet Therapy Program. CVPH is hoping to expand the program so more dogs can visit more patients.

"There are therapy programs in the schools, in the nursing homes, and some dogs have more of a rapport with different patients and different age groups," Zeglis said.

Doctors say the program is working. Patients visited by these furry friends report feeling less pain or no pain at all. The pet therapy helps patients take their mind off their illnesses.

"Dogs, among many different therapeutic modalities, may be one of the most perfect tools that have minimal harm and significant potential benefit," said Dr. Michael Kanevsky of CVPH.

And Berger says her dog, Curry, gets a high level of job satisfaction.  

"Yapping and screaming and jumping around, and pulling me to get into the hospital. She simply loves her work," Berger said.

Pet therapy-- a way for man's best friend to lend patients a helping a paw.

An information session was held at CVPH on how you and your dog can become Pet Therapy volunteers. For those interested who missed it, contact the hospital to find out how to get involved.

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