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Pet Therapy Is Worth Barking About

March 15, 2018

Health care is going to the dogs. And before you think that’s a bad thing, you need to experience Soothing Paws® in person.

With 85 dog and handler teams in our program, Soothing Paws is making a difference in the lives of patients and hospital staff by providing stress relief when it’s needed most. In addition to scheduled rounds at each hospital in Atlantic Health System, visits are available by request for most patients, their families and visitors.

“We’re constantly stopped in the halls so patients, families and hospital employees can kneel down, pet and talk to our dogs,” says Mildred Kowalski, PhD, RN, the Morristown nurse researcher who manages the Soothing Paws Program. “Because our dogs are so gentle and loving, they provide immediate and enduring comfort. It’s an absolutely amazing form of therapy.”

The pups are so popular they even have their own trading cards, which are handed out (along with hand sanitizer) following each and every therapy encounter. How popular is Soothing Paws?

In 2017, our dog-handler teams averaged 200 visits per month to patients in need of smiles across all medical centers in the system. “The program is a huge success and continues to grow in popularity since it began in 2007,” says Kowalski. “We’re always looking for new dogs, so consider joining the program if you have a loving pet. It’s a very rewarding way to volunteer.”

All dogs in the program must be registered after a training process and most, but not all, are handled by their volunteer owners.