John Hunter Hospital, in conjunction with Delta Therapy Dogs, has recently conducted a trial that’s being monitored by medical professionals around the world.
The preliminary findings found that bringing the dogs to visit sick patients has sharply boosted their spirits and led to an unprecedented reduction in recovery times.
“We had the hypothesis that bringing these dogs in to visit sick patients would cheer them up and bring them a bit of joy,” said one of the program’s volunteers. “What we didn’t realize at the time was that the interaction with animals also had a real therapeutic benefit to the patients they visited.”
One little girl was particularly memorable during the trial.
“The very first day that we walked in, the mother couldn’t believe it — the girl actually spoke and had a smile on her face,” voluntary regional coordinator of the program, Pam Withers said. “She wasn’t speaking, wasn’t doing anything beforehand, she was just lying there. From that first visit, the girl just accelerated in her recovery.”
One of the dogs that has visited the hospital frequently is a Maltese named Zach (pictured).
“I found that I got great enjoyment from giving back to the community, and the dogs enjoyed it as well,” Zach’s owner, Suzanne Madden, said. “The joy that you give to others, and just to see a smile on people’s faces — to give them an opportunity for non-medical touch, to be able to cuddle and pet an animal.”
Experts involved in the program were shocked when the data collected revealed a sharp reduction in recovery time.
“Patients who opted to have regular visits from the dogs were discharged, on average, 30% quicker than patients who declined a visit from the dogs. Our theory is that the interaction with the dogs is having a direct, positive therapeutic impact that is helping patients overcome their health issues quicker.”