The Innate Nature of A Dog

8/31/2022

Many scientific studies show the mental and physical benefits of petting a dog or a cat, and many hospitals have created or joined pet therapy programs to offer that service to their patients. San Juan Regional Medical Center works with Pet Partners to provide trained therapy dog volunteers to patients and caregivers alike. By Hannah Robertson. This story is sponsored by Big Idea Makerspace and Northern Edge Casino Hotel

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The third Friday of every month, nurses, doctors and hospital employees have the opportunity to be lovingly fuzzed by Maya or kissed by Pedro, or have Bodie lean against them for as long as he likes. The fuzzballs in question: a group of dogs from Pet Partners who help from the pet therapy team at San Juan Regional Medical Center. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by The Big Idea Makerspace at San Juan College, and Northern Edge Casino. I'm Hayley Opsal.

The pet therapy program here at San Juan Regional is finally coming back post-COVID, and we come every third Friday here to the healing garden for the employees. They, of course, have been through so much, and it's just a break to give them a smile.

The program is made up of volunteers and their dogs, all of whom are registered and certified therapy dogs through the Pet Partners program. Several of the dogs have been working together for years and do work beyond the hospital. Several of the dogs in the healing garden were responders at the school shooting in Aztec in 2017, and received commendations for the work they did there. They participate in library book readings, where kids can read books to the dogs, and gain confidence in their reading and speaking skills. And of course, the dogs have their hospital duties, whether they're nuzzling one on one with patients, or meet with hospital staff to give them a loving break in their day.

You don't know what people are dealing with, and we all have had such amazing interactions, whether it's with the staff here, almost all of these dogs worked at Aztec after the shooting several years ago, and the effect on the staff there, the kids, has just been amazing. And so really, it's whatever anybody brings to the dogs themselves, and what they need.

Fido at home may provide the support you need after a long day of work or play, but a certified therapy dog has to meet specific behavior standards, some of which vary depending on the program. First and foremost, the dog needs to have the right temperament for the job. A calm, collected dog is much more apt to help reduce stress than a high energy dog that can't sit still. The dogs have to know basic commands. An essential one for hospital work is Leave it. Look up local training courses. Even if your dog isn't quite cut out for pet therapy work, you'll get to learn a little bit more about your dog and the benefits of therapy animals.

I think the most important thing is that people need to realize that even their own dog.

Yeah, get back on it.

Can give them comfort. There's a saying that I just love, and that is all dogs are therapy dogs. Some are freelancing. And it's so true. It is just their nature to be loving and caring.

To learn more about San Juan Regional Medical Center's Pet Therapy Program or how to sign up to participate, visit sanjuanregional.com/pet-therapy. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Hayley Opsal.

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