Stories about: benefits of animals for sick people

Puppy love: Children’s researches dog visitation program for hospitalized kids

A team at Children’s Hospital Boston is currently in the midst of a research initiative, poring over videotapes of patient visits to examine an evolving therapeutic tool that brings the concept of “hands-on” care to a whole new level.

Tucker, a Golden Retriever, reports for duty at Children’s.

But instead of the traditional white coats, the visitors in these videos sport white, black, brown and golden ones; all made of fur. Aimee Lyons, RN, BSN, MSN, director of Nursing and Patient Services for the Medical/Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Maura Ammon, MSW, LCSW and Kathryn Atkinson, MSW, LCSW, both social workers in Children’s Center for Families, are studying how dog visits affect hospitalized kids. The research will be used to enhance Children’s Pawprints Program, which sets up supervised dog visits between hospitalized children and their families to provide a fun, interactive diversion from their usual hospital routine.

“We’re looking closely at how the dogs react throughout the stages, but what we appreciate most about dogs is exactly what the kids respond to,” says Lyons, who expects to finalize the study later this year. “Dogs don’t care if the child in front of them is sick; they’re just so happy to see that child.”

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