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Taking care of the patient,
not just the cancer.

3555 10th Court | Vero Beach, FL 32960

Volunteers Betty Wiese, left, and Anne Misek and therapy dog Casey
Volunteers Betty Wiese, left, and Anne Misek and therapy dog Casey

Vero Beach, FLA (June 21, 2016) — Indian River Medical Center (IRMC) has implemented a Pet Therapy Program at the Scully-Welsh Cancer Center, understanding that sometimes a furry friend can offer the best medicine for the psyche. This is just one way IRMC focuses on a patient’s mind, body and spirit.

“Patients and their caregivers are comforted by animal-assisted therapy. After a visit by one of our pet therapy dogs, patients visibly show improved mood and energy levels,” said Lori McCormick, Director of Oncology Services. “They often say how they look forward to the dog’s next visit.”

Visiting with a certified pet therapy dog can provide patients and their caregivers with comfort and relief, and offer a distraction from pain, discomfort and feelings of isolation.

Volunteer Betty Wiese and therapy dog Kenzie
Volunteer Betty Wiese and therapy dog Kenzie

All pet therapy dogs and their handlers must undergo a thorough screening and certification process. During a visit from a therapy dog, the dog’s owner walks the dog through the Cancer Center, stopping to greet patients and visitors. For patients receiving treatment, the visit might be limited to a wave from their room to a dog passing by, or the patient can request longer visits where the animal can sit in the patient’s lap or stand at the ready for a petting session.

The pet therapy sessions are offered Monday to Friday between 10 am and noon. Each handler-canine team volunteers for one hour. A total of two teams volunteer each day. Currently there are 10 teams handling the shifts. Most of the dogs are small breeds, such as terriers and Yorkies, but there’s also a standard poodle who is a favorite among patients.

“Dogs provide unconditional love,” said R. Scott Duncan, Volunteer Coordinator of the John W. Scully Volunteer Program, who began planning the program with McCormick in mid-2015. “This program has been met with enormous enthusiasm among patients and staff. Research has shown that the presence of pets reduces blood pressure and helps to calm anxiety. They brighten everyone’s day—including the staff.”