Pet Therapy Program
Research has shown that petting a dog can reduce blood pressure and alleviate stress – no matter the size of the animal.
Before bringing tail-wagging joy to patients and visitors at Banner Boswell, dogs and handlers must first go through training.
Volunteer observers from Therapy Dogs, Inc., a non-profit group that oversees the Pet Therapy programs at all Banner Health hospitals, test the four-legged volunteers during an initial meeting, and then again during three or four separate observations in the hospital before admitting teams to the program. In addition to ensuring dogs have up-to-date shot and health records, observers take note of:
- A dog's comfort level with being touched.
- How responsive and friendly the dog is around people, children and other dogs.
- If dogs have a tendency to bark, become hostile or get too excited around people, they could be disqualified from the program.
The two-legged volunteers must go through the usual volunteer application process, which includes filling out an application, interviewing with a volunteer coordinator, going through a background check and getting a TB test. Because dogs and handlers work as teams in the program, handlers must be able to engage patients in friendly, lighthearted conversations. Their ability to communicate with their dog also is a key measurement for observers.
After testing is complete, Therapy Dogs, Inc. will certify the dog to work in a health care environment. Once handlers and their dogs are certified to participate in Pet Therapy, they usually visit the hospital one day a week.
Dogs are allowed to visit the non-critical patient areas of the hospital as well as the waiting rooms. Staff members also are able to request visits for patients through Banner Boswell's computerized order system. The order goes directly to Volunteer Services to put on the Pet Therapy schedule for the day.
Handlers and dogs will spend about one to two hours doing rounds. Handlers must respectfully enter a room and ask patients if they would like to visit with a dog. Visits usually last up to 10 minutes, and handlers must know when to leave so that patients have privacy and time to rest.
Banner Boswell’s Volunteer Services department currently is accepting applications for Pet Therapy teams. Handlers must supply their own canines. All dogs must have current rabies shots and be well-groomed. It is also helpful if dogs have passed a general obedience course.
For more information about the Pet Therapy program or to volunteer, contact Volunteer Services at (623) 832-5387.