For dog lovers, snuggling with our pups is a surefire way to calm our nerves, improve our outlook, and just plain feel better. One Canadian treatment center has taken this idea to heart, realizing that a major illness is one of the most stressful life events a human will ever experience. The Juravinski Hospital has adopted a program to allow dogs and cats to visit with their seriously ill owners, reducing stress and improving morale.
The program is the brain child of a remarkable young man named Zachary Noble and his aunt, Donna Jenkins. When Zachary was a patient of the Juravinski Hospital battling cancer, he begged to see his dogs. Although he passed away from the disease, his visits with the dogs always led to improvements in his condition and attitude. Jenkins is honoring Zachary and ensuring that his legacy lives on with her foundation, Zachary’s Paws for Healing.
Together with hospital executives, medical staff and infection control, Zachary’s Paws for Healing has become the first organization in Canada to provide hospitalized patients with visits from companion animals.
Therapy dogs have been used for years with incredible results, but this program allows patients to interact with their own beloved pets. Aside from improved patient morale, the program is also beneficial for the pets who may be experiencing separation anxiety from the absence of their human.
So far, 25 visits have taken place between intensive care patients and their pets. Before each visit, the animals are thoroughly cleaned so as not to introduce harmful germs into the hospital. They are brought in on covered, wheeled carts and kept away from all other patients during their one hour weekly visits.
Jenkins is thrilled with the momentum the Zachary’s Paws for Healing program has gained and hopes to see it spread to other hospitals. In addition to the companion pet hospital visits, the 100% volunteer program also plans to offer foster care to pet owners that must enter the hospital for treatment.
Some patients have refused life-saving therapies because of a lack of caregivers for their pets. Zachary’s Paws for Healing hopes to alleviate this concern so that patients can concentrate on getting well. They will, of course, provide visits between fostered pets and their hospitalized humans.
To donate to Zachary’s cause or find out more about the program, visit ZacharysPawsForHealing.com.