Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jacobi and NCBH Offering More Therapy Dog Classes

Program Offers Dog Training at No Cost to Owners
   It’s been said that dogs are man’s best friend. And hospital patients always benefit from a friend’s visit. For many patients at Jacobi Medical Center (Jacobi) and North Central Bronx Hospital (NCBH), that friend comes in the form of a furry, four-legged tail-wagger. In its ongoing effort to provide a world-class experience for its patients, both Jacobi Medical Center (Jacobi) and North Central Bronx Hospital (NCBH) announce new therapy dog training classes for people with dogs who want to join the D.O.C. (Dogs on Call) program.

D.O.C. began in 2011 at the two hospitals, and has received an enthusiastic response from patients and staff, is continuing to attract dog owners and their pets dedicated to providing therapy to patients on a regular basis. These teams of trained dog and owner visit inpatient divisions in each hospital, spending time with patients who need a little companionship. The visits improve patients’ morale and research shows that visits of therapy dogs significantly reduces stress and anxiety.

Lana Wechsler worked to establish D.O.C. at Jacobi and NCBH after starting a similar program at Cornell Medical Center. “When I had my own personal tragedy, my dog Jasper made me go outside and interact with the world,” said Ms. Wechsler. “So I know these visits can go a long  way in encouraging patients, while also adding a little bit of home to their hospital stays.”

Each therapy dog owner-volunteer has a personal story of a patient who was profoundly moved by their visit. There was the day that Elvis, a West Highlight Terrier, visited Jacobi’s rehabilitation floor and met a patient with two broken legs. As Elvis walked up to her bed, she leaned over and picked him up. Holding the little dog in her arms, she began to weep from happiness, saying that Elvis reminded her of her own dog that she would soon see when she returned home.

In order to enter the program, owners and their dogs must participate in an evaluation on the evenings of October 8 and October 15. Once a dog has passed the evaluation, the animal and its owner will participate in a training course of five weekly classes on Tuesdays, from October 22 to November 19, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The course, which leads to certification, is valued at $200 and will take place at Jacobi Medical Center in Building 4 in the Penthouse (PH). Once a dog is certified, each volunteer team is asked to visit the hospital twice a month for at least one hour.

Those with additional questions are encouraged to contact the Public Affairs Department at (718) 918-3827

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