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When Caroline arrived at AdventHealth for Children, she was understandably nervous as the nurses and doctors put monitoring devices on her head to help understand what was going on with her epileptic seizures.
“Caroline was very frightened and distressed at all that was happening to her. As an autistic child, it is not easy to be forced to have many different people touching you and talking to you in a strange, unfamiliar place,” Kelly, Caroline’s mother said.
A few moments later, the pet therapy team came by with one of their dogs, Koa. The pet therapy program features dogs, mini horses, bunnies and others that play an instrumental role in the care offered at AdventHealth. Koa, a Doberman, serves as a cheerleader, entertainer and even a physical therapy assistant, bringing patients smiles and a much-needed distraction.
“The moment Koa entered the room, Caroline became the happiest, most relieved little girl. Her fear left and joy took over. As a mom, I was heartbroken that my daughter was having to experience such stress, it moved me to tears to see her so elated. I was so grateful the therapy dog took the time to stop by our room.”
Dogs and their volunteer handlers participate in the program. Both go through screening and training before being approved for patient duty, and the canines must demonstrate the proper temperament to fulfill the many tasks asked of them.
“As a parent, pet therapy is so important because it brought joy to my daughter in a stressful time. It was like having a little bit of comfort from home that she couldn’t get at that moment from her own pet.”
Operating under strict policies and infection control guidelines, as well as the approval of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), canine teams make more than 9,000 visits to patients each year.
Our pet therapy animals help patients forget the rigors and monotony of therapy regimens, which many of them have been doing for months, if not longer. Such a routine often leaves patients, especially little ones staying at AdventHealth for Children, bored, frustrated and upset.
“If you are ever able to give to pet therapy, know that you are making a difference. You are bringing comfort, joy and relief to patients and their families. It really is a priceless moment to be able to see your child forget his or her fears and be completely filled with happiness.”
If you’d like to learn more about how you can give to our pet therapy program, visit AdventHealthforChildren.com/Donate and select Child Life Services.