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Madison Welcomes New Canine Volunteer

May 24, 2017 03:47PM ● By Digital Media Director

Over 65 percent of American households have at least one pet, and most people consider their pets to be members of the family. When patients are hospitalized, they may be missing more than just their human family members, but their four-legged ones, as well.

With this in mind, a new kind of volunteer has joined Madison Regional Health System. Ruby, a Standard Poodle, and her handler Bertie Thompson, are part of Therapy Dogs International. As a certified therapy dog, Ruby knows how to navigate wheelchairs, IV poles and crutches, has passed a variety of obedience tests and knows not to pass through doorways before her handler.

Thompson puts a towel under Ruby’s head if the patient wants Ruby to put her head on their lap. She also makes sure Ruby’s paws are clean when going from room to room by wiping them down. It is important to note that according to the CDC, there has never been a report of an infection from animal-assisted therapy.

Animal-assisted therapy is a growing area of healthcare that is helping to take some of the stress out of hospitalization and rehabilitation. Some small studies have suggested that exposure to animals may lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improve feelings of loneliness or depression. Not only do patients feel better, but family members and friends often say that they enjoy the experience, too.

Ruby is new here, but Thompson is not a stranger to MRHS. She spent 30 years volunteering with the Hospital Auxiliary. The pair plans to come to MRHS every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00 to 4:00 pm to visit those who want to see them.