In the paediatrics unit at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC), we like to do what we can to bring smiles to the faces of our patients and their families – and what better to bring smiles than the wagging tail of a cute happy dog?
Meet Bella. A friend of mine adopted Bella from a Chihuahua rescue centre after a not so great start to her life. With much love, affection, good food, daily walks and training, in a positive manner, by a loving family, my friend and I began teaching her the many new skills necessary in the hope she would qualify for therapy work with sick children.
Finally, after much work, she graduated to twice weekly visits to the paediatric floor at UHNBC where she became, with staff approval, an honorary staff member! We have a photograph of her, proudly wearing her paediatric sweatshirt, on the wall for all to view.
Her main role is to calm and distract worried patients when they are having blood work done, examinations, or shots. Bella’s calm presence lifts the spirits of both staff and patients, and while she snuggles up to a patient who cuddles her back, it often brings contentment and a touch of normality to a scary situation. There are a lot more smiles when Miss Bella is around.
Bella’s family recently moved to Vancouver Island, but she still continues to do the “work” she loves and keep up her skills when her family flies or drives her up for monthly visits. Bella now has a new job too – training a replacement! Jazz is another therapy dog that now visits regularly to “fill in” for Bella and keep the smiles coming in the paeds unit.
Your turn to share – have you heard of pets helping in the recovery of people with an illness?
About Sandra Wyatt
Sandra Wyatt is the child life specialist in the paediatrics department of UHNBC in Prince George. She spends much of her "not so spare" time, developing and running her small dog daycare/boarding business. With rescue dogs of her own, walking 10km in a day is a usual day for her. Besides walking and working, Sandra loves gardening and this past spring, she re-arranged her whole garden to also “rescue” new plants a friend left behind after moving.