Therapy Dogs Spread Smiles, Alleviate Anxiety Therapy Dogs Spread Smiles, Alleviate Anxiety

A non-profit group brings dogs to visit people throughout Central New York.

ANCHOR: A non-profit group is bringing dogs across central New York to nursing homes, airports and college dorms to help spread smiles and alleviate stress. PAWS of Central New York includes more than 100 volunteers and even two cats. Jenna Webster reports how the simple act of a belly rub is helping change hospital patients, students and the dog owners themselves.

NAT of dog panting

WEBSTER: In third grade, Amy Dumas’ son Jake asked to bring their golden retriever Boomer to school. Dumas’ friend was a volunteer with PAWS and told her how to certify Boomer to visit Jake’s class. That was 13 years ago. Boomer has since been put down, but Dumas has been volunteering ever since. She’s about to certify her fifth dog and is now the president.

DUMAS: “I can’t imagine not being part of it.”

WEBSTER: Years ago–she took Boomer to Minetto Elementary–but the first-grader’s time was up before he finished reading “Henry and Mudge” to the dog.

DUMAS: “He said to Boomer, not to me, ‘hang on a second.’ And he ran in his classroom, ran back out, and he showed Boomer he got a sticky note and put it in the book. And he said, ‘Boomer I’ll finish the book when you come back next month.’ He was just so concerned that Boomer didn’t know the end of the story.”

WEBSTER: Dumas is amazed at what the dogs do.

DUMAS: “I’ve seen dogs crawl–army crawl up the sides of beds…The dogs just intuitively know what to do and where to be.”

WEBSTER: Mike Lollis and his golden retriever Rosie have been volunteering for four years. They spend a lot of time with the residents in the dementia unit at Camillus Ridge. The best part–seeing people light up when they see Rosie.

LOLLIS: “There’s a gentleman over there named Richard that had golden retrievers and he never ever misses a day when we go over there…He gets down on his knees and will rub and pet the dog all over.”

WEBSTER: Researchers at UCLA conducted a study on the benefits of animal assisted therapy and had dogs visit patients with heart failure. After only 12 minutes–their anxiety dropped by 24 percent. At Upstate University Hospital–the volunteer manager–Stephanie Mack sees this difference.

MACK: “Putting a smile on someone’s face, lowering blood pressure, making it one more day in the hospital a little bit easier to be here.”

WEBSTER: The dogs are motivators for some patients.

MACK: “To move, to be social, to eat, to get out of bed, to be more independent.”

WEBSTER: Dumas remembers one volunteer’s experience with a young girl in the hospital when she asked if she could take a picture of the dog.

DUMAS: “She used to put the picture under her pillow because it kept the bad dreams away…The connection she had with the dog just made the difference.”

WEBSTER: Not everything the PAWS volunteers do is as powerful as keeping the bad dreams away. But it’s the small interactions that are important too. Volunteers were at Syracuse University to give students a break from studying.

STUDENT: “This is what I needed. I needed you. Yes I did.”

WEBSTER: In order to go on these visits, dogs must be certified. And it’s not as easy as you may think. Half who come for an obedience evaluation…don’t pass. Another 20 percent fail their test run at the nursing home.

DUMAS: “What we do…not every dog is suited to that.”

WEBSTER: Plus–volunteers must be in sync with their dog. Lollis notices Rosie gets stressed when a lot of kids try to pet her at once.

LOLLIS: “She’ll just sit back and get real stiff, as opposed to where her tail’s wagging all the time.”

WEBSTER: Lollis says Rosie’s taught him to be more responsible. He’s bonded with her more than any other dog.

LOLLIS: “She follows me everywhere in the house.”

WEBSTER: And the dogs know what’s up when they see their yellow vest–time to go to work.

DUMAS: “Don’t take the vest out until you’re ready to walk out the door or they walk all over the house, chase you everywhere, wanna know when they’re leaving.”

WEBSTER: Boomer and Rosie are showing that a dog really is a person’s best friend–and that the wag of a tail or the tap of a wet nose can make all the difference.

NAT of dog scratching

WEBSTER: Jenna Webster, NCC News.

Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News) — With their wet noses, fluffy tails and soft ears, a group of therapy dogs is showing the positive impact animals have on people of all ages, whether it’s creating smiles, lowering stress or providing a non-judgmental listening ear.

PAWS of CNY is a non-profit, pet-assisted wellness organization that is bringing dogs, and even two cats, to visit people across Onondaga, Oswego, Cortland, Madison and Cayuga counties. More than 100 people and their dogs visit places such as hospitals, airports and schools.

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Some of Amy Dumas’ favorite memories with PAWS were visiting a first-grade class at Minetto Elementary School with her golden retriever Boomer.
Photograph: © 2010 Amy Dumas

Mike Lollis and his golden retriever Rosie began volunteering four years ago. Lollis said his favorite part of PAWS is seeing the smiles on the residents’ faces at Camillus Ridge, an assisted living home.

“There’s a gentleman over there named Richard that had golden retrievers and he never ever misses a day when we go over there,” Lollis said. “He gets down on his knees and will rub and pet the dog all over.”

Researchers at the UCLA Medical Center studied the effects of dogs visiting patients hospitalized with heart failure. Patients’ anxiety levels dropped 24 percent after only 12 minutes with the dogs, but 10 percent after spending that time with people.

“Even a short-term exposure to dogs has beneficial physiological and psychosocial effects on patients who want it,” Kathie Cole, lead author of the study wrote. “They make people happier, calmer and feel more loved. That is huge when you are scared and not feeling well.”

PAWS often visits patients at Upstate University Hospital and volunteer manager, Stephanie Mack, said the dogs help make patients’ stays a little easier.

“[They are motivators for patients] to move, to be social, to eat, to get out of bed, to be more independent,” Mack said.

One time a young girl in the hospital asked if she could take a picture of one of the dogs.

“She used to put the picture under her pillow because it kept the bad dreams away,” PAWS president Amy Dumas said. “The connection she had with the dog just made the difference.”

 

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UCLA Medical Center published how animal assisted therapy helps improve mental and physical health.
Photograph: © 2019 UCLA Health
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Jenna Webster

Jenna Webster is a sophomore Broadcast and Digital Journalism major at Syracuse University with minors in Sport Management and Political Science. She currently works at Citrus TV, the campus's student-run television station and previously wrote for the Daily Orange. Jenna is from the Bay Area in California and prefers the sunny state over the Syracuse snow!

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