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  • Jun 19, 2017

Pet Therapy at CHA

Interacting with a friendly animal has been proven to help with many ailments.

Pet therapy, a guided interaction between a specifically trained animal and an individual or group, can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. Also, this form of therapy can release endorphins that produce a calming effect relieving stress.

At CHA, staff on the inpatient psychiatry units have found pet therapy to be an effective treatment intervention to reduce stress and anxiety and have been committed to making it a regular part of the clinical programming. CHA Cambridge Hospital has been utilizing the services of a trained therapy dog on the Cahill 4 unit for several years and in November of 2016 CHA Everett Hospital began offering this service on the inpatient psychiatry units, West 2 and Lewis 2.

“Patients really look forward to the visits and many recall the dogs by name each time they come to visit,” said David Summersby, social work manager, who spearheads the pet therapy program at CHA Everett Hospital. "The dogs have a calming presence and always seem to generate a smile and story," added David.

Megan Shriver, a PA in the CHA Orthopaedics Department and Rachel Branham, a volunteer and resident of Everett, bring their therapy dogs Penny, a Golden Retriever, and Momo, a Shiba Inu, to visit with patients at Everett Hospital. "The dogs usually visit with patients for a half hour on each unit, either individually or in small groups depending on the needs at the time.

Rachel says that patients at CHA really love seeing Momo. “She is a very social dog. Her fur coat is especially soft and plush, and she is a unique breed, so I think it makes her visits very special. Momo brings our family so much joy and I like being able to share that positivity with others,” noted Rachel.

“It's really wonderful to see how spending time with a therapy dog makes a patient smile,” explained Megan. She went on to say, “It often gives them (patients) a chance to share something about themselves, usually about their own experiences with pets.”

Megan and Rachel’s dogs are trained to interact with patients through Dogs Building Opportunities for Nurturing and Emotional Support (Dog B.O.N.E.S.). Established in June 2002 as a volunteer-based organization, Dog B.O.N.E.S. certifies therapy animals for visitation to nursing facilities, hospitals, rehab centers and schools across Massachusetts.

This articles provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider.

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