HEALTH

Using Dogs to Help Calm Patients

By Candace Kelley
Correspondent

A Great Swiss Mountain Dog named Delia is on her way to work at Cooper University Hospital. She is a therapeutic dog trained by PAWS for People — a Pet-Assisted Volunteer Visitation Service.

“Animals don’t care what race you are, what religion you are. You are just another person that loves them and that’s all they care about,” said David Rose.

Rose is one of the many volunteers who takes his dog Delia to visit to anyone in the community who may benefit from interacting with an animal. According to PAWS for People, interaction with gentle dogs can reduce anxiety, increase motor skills, help children focus and even lower blood pressure. Cathy Carney says playing with the dog was a nice break.

“It’s just a nice distraction from what you’re going thorough,” she said.

Four-year-old Aiden Stockey has a dog at home. Feeding Delia snacks came easy and put a smile on his face right away. The special training course Delia passed with PAWS keeps her calm when she’s up close and personal with people.

“Your dog has to be able to do a sit, a down, walk on leash well, no pulling, be able to negotiate a crowd,” Rose explained.

Delia works with patients in hospitals and children with special needs. She has even helped college students make it through their finals.

PAWS trains mostly dogs, but there are a few therapy cats and even a few therapy rabbits, and the organization is always looking for more owners and pets to become a traveling therapeutic team.

“It’s amazing what it’s done to lift their spirits. A lot of people have been in the hospital for days or weeks and haven’t been home to see their animals,” Rose said.

Rose says that being in the program not only helps those who need to relieve various stressors, but he has benefited as well. He has a special needs son and recalls how people were always generous and kind to him when he was growing up.

“It’s sort of my way of putting back for what all the people did for my son over the years,” he said.

Delia was stopped at every turn at the hospital. Patients and staff members wanted to get close to her, and she always put a smile on their faces. Rose says that’s the power of animals. He’s been with PAWS for three years and he and Delia plan to reach out to those in need for as along as they can.