When Ginger, Alie, Finnegan, Parker, Kara and Kirby hear the phrase, “Time to go to work!” these canines know just what to do. For an hour-and-a-half every Thursday afternoon, the five dogs visit three different units at Sarasota Memorial Hospital to work as therapy dogs. The dogs and their owners visit dog-loving patients in the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Unit, the Pediatric Unit and the Oncology Unit. The dogs also visit people in Sarasota Memorial’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center off Clark Road.
When the dogs wear their pet-therapy bandanas, they know they are working. The patients eagerly await Thursday afternoon visits when they can hold and pet the pups. The dogs do group visits as well as personal room visits for those who may not be able to leave their beds. Although the visits with the dogs may only last 15 or 20 minutes, patients say the healing benefits and enjoyment gained from these interactions last long after the dogs leave.
The dogs that participate in the pet-therapy program were carefully screened for health and behavioral issues by the Humane Society and approved by a pet-therapy certifying organization prior to being admitted to program. Hospital staff also screens patients prior to a visit to make sure they are not afraid of dogs.
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