01 FEB 2024

Could Your Pet Help Our Patients?

An obscured woman is crouching down to cradle the underside of a golden retriever's face. The dog is wearing a vest marking him as a therapy dog. A person in a wheelchair can be seen in the background, elatedly waiting for their time with the dog.
Make a difference in healthcare with your certified therapy pet! NorthBay Volunteer Services is recruiting pet owners for a program aiming to offer seven-day-a-week pet visits to patients and staff.

After a very long “paws,” certified therapy dogs will return to NorthBay Health’s hospitals, thanks to an effort being launched through NorthBay Volunteer Services.

Three certified pet therapy dogs and their owners have stepped forward to help reinstitute a pet visitation program at NorthBay, according to Robin Hunt, manager of Volunteer Services, and recruiting has begun.

Kat Hsueh, a Certified Alliance of Therapy (CAT) pet owner holding her therapy dog, Mandy.Anyone interested in learning more about the program is invited to attend an informational “Yappy Hour” at 5 p.m. on Feb. 20 at Green Valley Administration Center, Room 160 (Please leave your pet at home for this meeting; humans only!). At this meeting, Kat Hsueh, a Certified Alliance of Therapy (CAT) pet owner, will explain what it takes for a pet owner and pet to become certified. Can’t make this one? Robin says more will be scheduled through the year.

Pets can be a calming influence in the medical setting, said Robin. Certified therapy pets not only help hospitalized patients who may be suffering fear, stress and pain, but staff can also gain positive anxiety-reducing breaks from their high-stress jobs when a four-legged friend comes to visit.

Eventually, NorthBay would like to offer pet visits at both hospitals seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteers will be scheduled in four-hour shifts. They’ll not only visit patient rooms, but include stops in the Emergency Departments, too, where they can help lower stress.

Kat has seen the benefits first-hand.

Upclose shot of Mandy, a light orange Pomeranian appearing dog who is a certified pet therapy dog. Mandy wears a red, heart-shaped tag on her collar that reads: I am a therapy dog.“I’ve brought my dog, Mandy, to meet first responders — police and fire department personnel — and it’s interesting to see their reaction. When Mandy meets up with people, they’re overjoyed, they get emotional. They just seem to lose their stress.”

Do you have a dog like this? Interested in learning how to become a certified pet therapy handler, or already have certification? Plan to attend “Yappy Hour” and learn more. Or, contact Robin directly at (707) 646-3145, or by email at Robin.Hunt@NorthBay.org.

Learn more about the volunteer opportunities available through NorthBay Health.

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