Health

Therapy dogs provide love, support to health care workers

PeaceHealth welcomes canines through pandemic
June 19, 2022 at 5:10 a.m.
St. Joseph PeaceHealth dietitians, from left, Alex Mirante, Courtney Caldwell and Jill Kelly pet Domino outside the hospital on June 16. Once a month, therapy dogs come to the hospital to bring a little joy and some support to the health care workers.
St. Joseph PeaceHealth dietitians, from left, Alex Mirante, Courtney Caldwell and Jill Kelly pet Domino outside the hospital on June 16. Once a month, therapy dogs come to the hospital to bring a little joy and some support to the health care workers. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

By HAILEY HOFFMAN
Staff Reporter

When the pandemic hit, volunteer positions at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center closed up in an attempt to limit the number of people going in and out of the hospital and potentially spreading COVID-19.

One motley crew of volunteers — comprising meticulously-trained golden retrievers and pups who love a good belly rub — found a way to keep providing love and relief to those at St. Joseph’s. 

Instead of visiting patients, the dogs and their owners would post up each week outside the main entrance of the hospital to give the stressed and tired health care workers a moment of reprieve. The dogs still visit monthly for their allotted dose of pets. 

“We felt that our own health care workers needed a break and the support from them,” said Molly Watson, director of volunteer services at the hospital.

photo  Ted waits for a treat while receiving pets from pharmacist Katelyn Hancock. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  


Dogs are proven to lower anxiety and reduce blood pressure. The simple act of petting a dog or other animals promotes the release of serotonin and oxytocin, according to UCLA Health.

When the Whatcom County transmission rate drops, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the hospital will welcome the dogs and their trainers back into the hospital to visit patients, Watson said.

photo  Recreation Therapist Nota Tsitsiragos hangs out with Zack, a 3-month-old Golden Retriever service dog in training, and facility dog Metcalf. Retired physical therapist Claudia Peters owns the two dogs. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

 

Retired physical therapist Claudia Peters brought the first facility dog — service dogs who work with a professional in health care or education — into the hospital more than two decades ago to aid her patients in recovery. Peters said she loved using dogs in her work because they are a stress reliever, distraction from pain and motivational tool.

“It’s a lot more fun working on balance by throwing a ball for a dog,” Peters said.

About a decade ago, the hospital expanded on Peters' idea and started welcoming volunteer dogs and handlers into the hospital to visit with patients in units like physical therapy or behavioral health. Currently, there are nine teams registered with the hospital. Each team's dogs even get their own name tags.

photo  Therapy and service dogs and trainers line up outside of the hospital. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

 

Have a news tip? Email newstips@cascadiadaily.com or Call/Text 360-922-3092

Sign up

for our email newsletters

Weekly Top Stories

Sign up to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every Sunday

Daily Updates & Breaking News Alerts

Sign up to get our daily updates and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox daily

Latest Stories


COMMUNITY
Fireworks fly over Bellingham
Fourth of July festivities held at waterfront

BASEBALL
Bells drop close non-league match-up against Redmond Dudes
Back-and-forth loss caps off four non-league games for the West Coast League North Division first-half champions

TRANSPORTATION
Amtrak Cascades to reopen in September
The regional line will serve all 18 stops, including Bellingham and Vancouver, BC

HISTORY
Good Time Girls lead candid, comical history tours
BellingHistory highlights ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of Fairhaven

SAFETY
Quiet consequences of the Fourth of July
Holiday weekend can be a nuisance to pet owners, veterans and environment