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JoAnna Lou
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Hospitals Welcome Our Dogs
Healthcare organizations partner with PAWS to bring in pets

I've never had to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time, but if I did I know that I'd miss my dogs. I can't imagine getting over an illness or injury without them there to cheer me up and make me laugh.

As studies document the healing power of pets, more healthcare organizations have started allowing animals into their facilities. My Sheltie, Nemo, and I visited patients at our local hospital through a therapy program. I could see people's faces light up when we entered the room. As the patients stroked Nemo's fur, they would open up and tell me about their own pets back at home.

Petting a dog can brighten up a dreary day in the hospital, but nothing can replace the joy of your own pets. An organization called PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) realized that it was important to get people's animals into the hospital as part of the healing process. They've since convinced several hospitals across the country to adopt personal pet visitation policies.

After the program is in place, if a hospital worker hears that a patient has a pet at home, they can ask a doctor to approve a visit. Then PAWS checks that the animal is up to date on vaccinations and performs a “behavior check” to ensure the their temperament is suitable for a hospital environment. A volunteer will then accompany the pet to the patient's room.

I imagine that it's no easy feat to get health care facilities to create personal pet visitation policies. However, I'm glad that more hospitals are exploring alternative therapies. Any dog lover knows that our pets can be a powerful "medicine!"

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by roger_mommaerts/flickr.

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