There are plenty of studies showing the benefits to both patients and hospital staff of contact with friendly pets, particularly dogs. Less stress, less perception of pain, something to smile about. The dogs provide undemanding affection and can be a bridge between the patient and the accompanying human volunteer, decreasing loneliness and isolation.
What's not immediately evident in the joyful reaction to hospital visiting dogs is the amount of human and animal preparation necessary to make it work.
UCLA's People Animal Connection, in operation since 1994, has made 1,200 patient visits at UCLA Medical Center. Dogs are accompanied by their human owner-volunteers, who have undergone many hours of training along with their pets and who foot the bill for frequent and careful veterinary care, including extra vaccinations. For each visit, a dog (which must have a calm, friendly personality) has to be bathed and have its ears and teeth cleaned.
Even patients in critical-care units, like the coronary unit patients pictured here, can receive dog visits if their physicians allow it. These photos are from a holiday visit last week.
To get involved: People Animal Connection, (310) 825-6002