Whether simply comforting anxious patients, providing a welcome distraction during long treatments, or encouraging a depressed teenager to communicate for the first time in weeks, our four-legged volunteers and their human partners bring boundless joy to many, not to mention important clinical benefits. Research shows that therapy dogs can reduce patient anxiety and depression and lower blood pressure by releasing endorphins, which also promote healing.
Thanks to a $17,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, a part-time coordinator has been hired to expand this much-in-demand program. Last year, 14 volunteer pet teams spent 1,000 hours visiting patients at the hospital and at Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health’s outpatient locations. The plan is to add 11 more teams and double the number of patient visits.
Pictured above: Handler Gretchen Tomasula and her certified therapy dog, Tucker.