FETCH, FIDO: INNOVATIVE PET THERAPY PROGRAM AT CEDARS-SINAI INTEGRATES DOGS INTO PHYSICAL THERAPY, REHAB, MORE
LOS ANGELES (December 8, 1998) -- Janie, a volunteer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, pads down the hall to her next stop. She trots into the hospital room, panting, sits down on the floor, and pokes her nose over the edge of the bed. She nudges the patient's hand, and licks it -- but just a little bit. She's been taught that it's bad manners to lick patients excessively. Janie's a popular volunteer. She's been coming to the cardiac units and the AIDS unit for a little over six months now. Patients know her by name. Patients' families know her by name -- even those who have never met her. In the short time she's been volunteering, this golden retriever has become a Cedars-Sinai institution.
Janie, who was trained as a Seeing Eye Dog, is a part of an innovative pet therapy program that Cedars-Sinai has operated since 1996. The basis on which the program is based is simple: Some patients heal significantly faster and better if they are visited by a friendly animal. Studies show that the uncomplicated affection and unconditional acceptance a companion animal offers seem to act as a sort of lightning rod, reducing anxiety and relieving depression, both of which inhibit healing. They can also serve as an active part of the healing process, says Rickann Clapp, the Recreation Therapist who supervises the pet therapy program in Cedars-Sinai's Rehabilitation department.
"We use the dogs as an active part of the healing process. If the patient is
working on arm strength or balance we incorporate the dog in the exercise. We'll
have the patient pet the dog with the weaker arm, or walk the dog down the hall.
Sometimes we'll take the patient and dog outside. A simple game of 'fetch' can
become an exercise in balance, vocalization, range of arm movement, and
socialization. We can also tell how oriented a patient is by having them name
the parts of the dog
Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center