A few Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) therapists use unconventional techniques to help patients overcome the stress of illness. Bridget â a member of YRMCâs Pets Are Warm Support (PAWS) â recommends a scratch behind the ears or a pat on the head.
A boxer, Bridget joined the pet therapy program in January 2017. Bridgetâs âhandler,â Althea Friedman has been a PAWS volunteer for 14 years, for many years with Tody at her side and now with Bridget. The PAWS program is sponsored byÂ Volunteer Services at YRMC.
Most Mondays, Althea and Bridget head to the third floor of YRMC West where they visit patients and their families. People recognize Bridget is part of YRMCâs pet therapy program because of her friendly attitude, good manners and her vest â the YRMC PAWS âuniform.â Althea and Bridget go to the rooms of patients who have requested a PAWS visit. They then check in on other patients who may enjoy some Bridget therapy.
âThe dogs seem to have an ability to choose which person needs them the most,â said Nancy Thomes, YRMCâs director of Volunteer Services. âIâve seen our pet therapy dogs go into an area with a number of people and head directly to the person who has experienced a loss.â
YRMCâs pet therapy program was launched in 2002 and is supported by theÂ YRMC Foundation. Today, PAWS volunteers â people and their
pups â volunteer at both YRMC East in Prescott Valley and YRMC West in Prescott. The hospitalâs program is affiliated with Pet Partners, which evaluates and tests the programâs dogs for good health and strong obedience skills.
âItâs teamwork between you and your dog,â Althea said. âThe dog needs to be able to conduct him or herself in a hospital, where there are lots of unfamiliar noises and crowded halls. It takes training and is a definite ongoing commitment.â
What prompted Althea to make that commitment? An experience nearly 15 years ago inspired her to join PAWS.
âMy husband was a patient in the hospital,â she said. âHe was asked if he would like a pet therapy visit. He said âyesâ and soon a woman with a collie walked into his room. Petting that dog gave him such comfort. It made me think, âIâd like to bring that kind of happiness to people.ââ
And along with happiness, thereâsÂ researchÂ that shows dogs and other pets have positive health benefits for people. Pets lower blood pressure, improve recovery from heart disease, and can reduce rates of asthma and allergy in some children. Even short-term cont act, like petting a dog in the hospital setting can relieve pain, alleviate stress and increase joy.
As Althea has observed, âIt just does people a world of good to hug Bridget.â
To learn more about the PAWS program, contact Volunteer Services atÂ YRMC WestÂ (928-771-5678) orÂ YRMC East (928-442-8678).
For more information about theÂ YRMC Foundation, contactÂ 928-771-5686.
Information provided by Yavapai Regional Medical Center.