Pet therapy support dogs have played an important role in the healing of SSM Health patients. At least once a week, the dogs and their volunteer handlers visit patients, families and staff to bring comfort, joy and a much-needed break from reality at several SSM Health hospitals.
Research has shown that interaction with a therapy dog can reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in patients. There are also the less tangible benefits: Patients often report that they feel happier, less lonely, more talkative and more optimistic after visiting with the therapy dogs.
What Breeds of Dogs Could You See?
This volunteer program includes dogs ranging from as small as a Maltese to as large as a Great Dane. Dogs are accepted based on their temperament and their willingness to be touched and interact with people, so you never know who might walk past.
When Do Teams Visit?
Teams visit our hospitals on a regular basis on weekdays, evenings, weekends and even holidays. Teams are assigned two to three units and will call ahead to let staff know of their visit. Staff will then put together a list of patients who would like a visit.
This is just one way our hospitals enhance a patient's experience and help to provide exceptional care. Our canine teams also provide meaningful interactions for families and staff. A visit can help reduce stress and blood pressure, ease anxiety and reduce recovery time.
How to Join the Program
Therapy dogs are obedient family pets with a good disposition, but are not service dogs like those that assist the disabled. Here's Hannah, one of our volunteers, interacting in her home environment:
SSM Health pet therapy teams are required to have completed a pet therapy training course and to be certified through one of multiple pet therapy organizations.