As result of recent updates to COVID visitation policies, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s pet therapy teams are back conducting hospital rounds to sniff out patients, visitors, and staff who could benefit from a visit with a furry “thera-PAW-ist.” These DOGtors specialize in spreading big smiles.
“We are delighted our pet therapy teams are back in rotation,” said Robin Page, Director, Volunteer Services at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. “The handlers and dogs brighten the day for everyone whom they greet.”
Consistent with any medical career, each pet therapy dog and handler undergoes rigorous training. The team is tested every 18 months to maintain official certification. Once certified, they are screened by the hospital before receiving an ID badge.
“Qualifying for pet therapy takes more than having a good, friendly dog,” advised Susan Appell who coordinates the hospital’s program. “The dog must be well-trained, adaptable to new environments and comfortable being touched by strangers.”
Candidates for the program are at least one-year-old, fully vaccinated, and have lived with the owner/handler at least six months. The handler must pass an online exam given by an independent professional association and then the pair takes an in-person test conducted by a designated Pet Therapy evaluator. This includes a series of staged interruptions to ensure the dog is always responding to the handler’s commands no matter how distracting the situation.
“We have wonderful volunteers and invite other pet owners who think they might like to quality for the program to contact me,” said Appell. “It is a rewarding experience for both the team and the patient.”
If you are interested in learning more about how you and your dog might qualify for the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s pet therapy program, email Susan Appell at email@example.com.