Most Viewed Stories
Doggie Howser: Canines join YRMC therapy
For those stuck in a hospital bed and suffering from illness or trauma, a visit from a friendly dog may be just what the doctor ordered.
This prescription will soon be filled for patients at Yuma Regional Medical Center thanks to an $18,000 grant provided by the Yuma Rotary Club. The grant provides funding for the new Tails of Joy Pet Partners Visitation Program, which will bring therapeutic dogs to patients' bedsides by the end of summer.
“We couldn't have done it without Yuma Rotary's generous financial assistance,” said Elizabeth Hammonds, YRMC volunteer services officer and Tails of Joy program coordinator.
“This program is a winning thing for the hospital and for our Rotary club,” added Chuck Nordquist, who is also assistant district Rotary governor.
“We had the money on hand to get this thing going and we decided unilaterally that we would do this program. These animals can bring relief to people who are suffering in the hospital, who are ill and really need to have some positive things going their way.”
Making patients more comfortable is why YRMC has embraced the new program, Hammonds said.
“This program provides patients the opportunity to interact safely with the dogs and receive their unconditional love and acceptance in the hopes of making the hospital environment more comfortable.”
But before being allowed in the hospital, all dogs and their volunteer handlers must go through an application process, background check, health screening and interview.
That process is being handled by Delta Society Pet Partners, a nationally recognized program for therapy dogs.
To be in the program, dogs must accept a friendly stranger, accept petting no matter how strenuous, be properly groomed, be able to walk unperturbed through a crowd of strangers, not be disturbed by random sights or loud noises, be obedient to commands, not lunge for objects and be neutral around other animals.
Once the handlers and their dogs have met all the Pet Partners requirements and complete the YRMC volunteer process, they will undergo orientation at YRMC.
About 13 handlers who want to participate in the new program gathered with their dogs Saturday at Yuma Regional Corporate Center to be evaluated by Cindy Lipton, a trainer with Delta Society Pet Partners.
“I think it is really exciting,” Lipton said in between evaluations.
Delores Gauna brought Bo, her 6-year-old boxer, to be evaluated by Lipton. Guana has already been taking Bo to Yuma area assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and schools.
“To just see the interaction between Bo and residents was phenomenal, so it just kind of went from there.”
The part she enjoys most is watching the patients' faces light up when Bo comes to visit.
“That is the purpose of these dogs — to make someone smile. If these dogs can make someone smile, they have done their job.”
Many patients enjoy petting Bo, “and of course he likes all the attention,” Gauna said. “It is really rewarding if you like working with your animal. It is an ideal situation all around for clients as well as the handler.”
Gauna passed the evaluation with flying colors and will be part of the first animal therapy teams to visit patients at YRMC when the program kicks off.
“We are very excited and very privileged to be part of this beginning group,” she said.