AUXILIARY NOTES: Therapy dogs and handlers wanted

Peace Arch Hospital looking for volunteers to visit patients.

  • Aug. 28, 2012 11:00 a.m.

Are you an animal lover who has a dog that is friendly and gentle and loves to be around people?

Maybe you have thought about volunteering but aren’t sure exactly how you would like to donate your precious time.

Why not share your love of animals and the joy that your special pet brings to you with the residents and patients at Peace Arch Hospital?

For many years, Peace Arch Hospital has enjoyed a wonderful partnership with St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs and BC Pets and Friends. Both organizations do an amazing job of recruiting, screening and training handlers and their pets to visit a variety of settings including hospitals and longterm residential care facilities.

At Peace Arch Hospital, therapy dogs and their handlers visit in both acute and residential care.

Dogs that are selected into the pet therapy program must be at least one year old, in good health, with up-to-date vaccinations. Dogs and their handlers must be able to complete and pass an intensive therapy dog evaluation process, where it is determined whether the dogs will be able to thrive in an unfamiliar environment.

Approved handlers and their pets are referred to volunteer resources at Peace Arch Hospital by St. Johns Ambulance or BC Pets and Friends.

Upon referral, the human counterpart of the therapy dog team will undergo yet another comprehensive screening process, including a volunteer interview and, if accepted, a general orientation and role-specific training by qualified staff members.

Contact with animals is known to have a calming effect for some people.

Residents and patients experience joy and companionship while visiting with the therapy dogs and their handlers.

Therapy dogs love being around people and are totally nonjudgmental; whatever a person’s level of ability, a dog’s kindness is unconditional.

Through petting, affection and regular visitation, residents and patients find peace in the gentle contact with a dog.

They talk more to others, increase participation in activities, eat and sleep better and smile more.

As a result, patient and resident quality of life is improved.

Dogs love affection and that is what makes them, along with their handlers, such great visitors.

Becoming an approved therapy dog team is a commitment of time and energy.

The process is fun and can reap years of rewarding memories and special moments for handlers and their dogs and for the people that they visit.

At Peace Arch Hospital, there is always room for another therapy dog team.

If you are interested in finding out more about this rewarding volunteer opportunity please visit:

• St. John Ambulance, – 604-301-2712.

• BC Pets and Friends, – 604-688-1766.

And don’t forget to specify Peace Arch Hospital as your volunteer destination of choice.

Felicity Matthews writes monthly on behalf of the Peace Arch Hospital Auxiliary.


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