Published on March 13, 2018

Nash UNC Health Care offers pet therapy program

Pet Therapy with Elsie

Nash UNC Health Care has introduced “Caring Canines of Nash,” a pet therapy program designed to provide short visits, comfort and enjoyment to patients who love dogs.

The hospital is using a type of pet therapy known as animal-assisted activity, which involves a specially trained dog and its handler spending 10 to 15 minutes with a patient who has requested the visit.

“Research has shown that pet therapy can provide great benefits to patients through reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure and generally uplifting spirits,” said Amy Winham, Director of Service and OperationaExcellence at Nash UNC Health Care.

Reports from The Mayo Clinic indicate that a few minutes spent petting a dog and talking with its handler can bring on the “happiness bounce” for many patients, where they report feeling less tired or stressed, a little more optimistic, and are thrilled about having a story to share with visitors. Family members and friends who sit in on dog visits, as well as hospital staff, typically say they feel better, too, according to the report.

Nash UNC Health Care has a stringent process in place to ensure dogs are properly cleaned, vaccinated, well trained and screened for appropriate behavior. The Mayo Clinic report also notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has never received a report of infection from animal-assisted therapy.

Caring Canines of Nash is a volunteer group and each visiting team consists of a dog and its handler. During hospital visits, dogs will always be on a short leash and the handler will accompany the dog at all times. Teams are registered with an accredited national organization, either Pet Partners or Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

Every dog in the program has passed an evaluation deeming it suitable for pet therapy, is at least one year old, readily performs basic obedience skills, and has a gentle temperament suitable for hospitalized patients.  Any patient who is uncomfortable with dogs can decline the service. 

Caring Canines of Nash is beginning with two teams, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Elsie with her handler Tamera Dengler, and Lily, an American Pit Bull Terrier with her handler, Tosha Aldridge.

“Research, combined with human intuition, recognizes that the greatest benefit of pet therapy may well be the welcome distraction that brings smiles to patients, family members, and staff,” said Winham.

For more information on Caring Canines of Nash, please call 252-962-8118.

News Media Contact

Kenyon "K.J." Askew, Jr., Public Relations and Marketing Specialist, at 252-962-8766 or by email.

If calling after hours, please dial the main hospital line at 252-962-8000 and ask to speak with the nursing supervisor on duty and identify yourself as a member of the news media. He or she will be able to assist you.

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