Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital recently announced the newest member of its staff, Freedom, a Golden Retriever and a member of the Animal Assisted Therapy program at Memorial Healthcare System.
In his new role, Freedom will help children and their families deal with the stress and anxiety that may be associated with a stay in the hospital or a medical procedure.
According to Caitlin Stella, CEO of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Freedom is truly a part of the care team. Freedom is available when a patient needs extra comfort or support, he can chase a ball, help patients with their shoes, open doors and let patients take him for a walk. Families and hospital staff also benefit from taking a moment out of their day to unwind in the company of these dedicated dogs. Including Freedom, all six dogs in the Animal Assisted Therapy program have important jobs within each Memorial hospital.
“This program is such an important part of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital’s philosophy to heal through the power of play,” said Stella. “We see young children who actually are excited to be patients because they get to visit with their favorite four-legged friends.”
The Memorial Animal Assisted Therapy program was created in 2009 because the team at Memorial Healthcare System recognized the need to physically and emotionally support patients during their treatments with the benefits of this type of therapy.
These specially trained therapy dogs have helped to create a powerful healing environment that aims at motivating and encouraging patients to reach their goals.
There are currently six service dogs on staff throughout the Memorial hospitals. The dogs are all Golden Retrievers that come from a special service dog breeder in Connecticut. They are trained since birth to respond to 80 commands and each have their own special roles depending on where they work within the hospital system. Selected Memorial staff members receive special training and must pass a stringent test to work with the therapy dogs. Each therapy dog reports to work with a home handler and then goes home with the handler to rest after a full-time day of making a difference.
“There are numerous ways our therapy dogs help patients throughout Memorial Healthcare System, whether it’s taking their minds off of being sick, keeping them calm during a painful procedure or even helping in a rehabilitation setting,” said Tracy Meltzer, director of nursing. “Freedom is young and so full of energy; he will definitely be a fun addition to the program for everyone to enjoy.”