SwedishAmerican celebrates first anniversary of Caring Canines program

SwedishAmerican patient Diane Disch with Ginger. (Photo provided)

Staff Report

SwedishAmerican is celebrating the first anniversary of its Caring Canines animal assisted therapy program.

Beginning with six therapy dogs and handler teams in one hospital unit (Mental Health), the Caring Canines program has nearly quadrupled in size in just one year. Visits now include 21 dogs who see patients on the third, seventh, eighth and 10th floors of SwedishAmerican Hospital, the third and fourth floors of the Heart Hospital and guests in the second-floor Surgical and Cath Lab waiting areas.

From the smallest pediatric patients to those who are frail and elderly, the Caring Canines team brings smiles and comfort to all.

I am blessed and honored to be able to accompany the volunteers and their dogs on all of these visits,” said Animal Assisted Therapy Coordinator Deb Schwarze, MS, MA, LCPC. “It’s a very special place to be. We can enter a hospital room and give unconditional love and acceptance. We give smiles and hope.”

The Caring Canines, which include everything from a 6-pound longhaired Chihuahua to a 180-pound Great Dane, have made contact with more than 8,000 patients, staff members and guests.

The dogs range in age from the just over a year-old pup to the “mature” ones that show a little gray around the eyes and muzzle.

SwedishAmerican promotes the Caring Canines in many ways. “Visiting Today” posters notify staff and visitors about which dogs will be “making rounds.” In addition to having their own informational cards with key facts, the dogs wear official ID badges, complete with photos and the designation of “volunteer.” Crossing signs in hospital hallways also notify others that man’s best friends are nearby.

Moving forward, SwedishAmerican looks forward to the continued growth of this meaningful program.

From the Oct. 19-25, 2011, issue

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