East Hawaii News

Waimea Hospital Seeking Pet Therapy Teams

June 10, 2013, 12:52 PM HST
* Updated June 10, 4:59 PM
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A Waimea hospital is looking for a few good dogs – and their humans.

North Hawaii Community Hospital is seeking candidates to volunteer for its Best Friends Pet Therapy Program.

Each dog-handler team visits the hospital a few hours once a week, visiting with patients, people in waiting rooms and staff.

“They bring smiles and brighten the day for patients,” NHCH spokeswoman Krista Anderson said.

Anderson said that many patients miss their own dogs while staying in the hospital, and begin talking and interacting when the dog enters their room, even if they were withdrawn before.

She noted that pet therapy has been found to have a therapeutic effect on people as it can help relieve stress, lower blood pressure and raise spirits.

The hospital staff also looks forward to visiting with the therapy dogs, as they provide a few moments of unconditional love and a break during their busy day.

The dog/handler team will be initially evaluated by the hospital’s Best Friends Pet Therapy program directors according to the standards of Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society) and Therapy Dogs International.

A temperament assessment will be conducted as well. If a team is accepted as a possible candidate for the Best Friends program, the handler will begin the volunteer application process, which includes a background check.

All breeds are welcome, although they must be two years of age to qualify for the program and must be examined by the hospital’s veterinarian prior to being accepted.

Characteristics of a therapy dog include:

  • A strong bond with its owner
  • Must be housetrained
  • Well-socialized and outgoing, must like people
  • A calm, stable personality that can handle the unexpected
  • Under handler control at all times, even when distractions occur
  • CANNOT jump up, bite, snap, paw or bark while at work

Interested persons can contact Jennifer Rabalais at 881-4825.

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