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Studies show pets aid in stress relief, healing

Submitted by Lee Halloran, Manager, Volunteer Services

Jon Stolson and Mary Ludovicy with RoxyStudies have shown that interaction with dogs and other domestic animals has significant benefits.

Three years ago, Beebe Healthcare started its Pet Therapy program to connect patients, visitors, and employees with trained dogs and handlers. This program reduces stress both physically and mentally.

It has been shown that contact with a gentle, friendly pet:

  • lowers blood pressure
  • improves cardiovascular health
  • releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect
  • diminishes overall physical pain
  • lifts spirits and lessens depression
  • decreases feelings of isolation and alienation
  • encourages communication
  • provides comfort
  • increases socialization
  • reduces boredom
  • lowers anxiety
  • helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders
  • creates motivation for the client to recover faster
  • reduces loneliness

In addition, the act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response, reducing the amount of medication some people require. It also helps patients and visitors relax as they wait for treatment.

Beebe partners with PAWS for People, a Wilmington-based nonprofit that works solely with pet visitation volunteers. Each volunteer and each dog is trained for pet visitation. The animals are taught how to behave around patients in all physical and mental states.

PAWS is unique because of the emphasis the group places on providing individualized therapeutic experiences for every person the handlers and animals visit. PAWS has strict standards for training and testing dogs and cats to make sure every therapy team is capable of meeting the various needs of a diverse clientele.

The PAWS organization helps coordinate teams at more than 130 locations, which now includes Beebe’s Medical Center in downtown Lewes, Tunnell Cancer Center, and Bookhammer Outpatient Surgery Center at the Beebe Health Campus on Route 24 near Rehoboth Beach.

Beebe now employs 17 teams of dogs and handlers, but the need continues to grow. We are searching for additional pet therapy teams to join our Volunteer Services program here. If you are interested and have a dog that could be suitable for the program, call Volunteer Services at (302) 645-3531. For more information on PAWS for People, go to www.PAWSforpeople.org.

Lee Halloran

Lee Halloran, Manager of Volunteer Services at Beebe Healthcare, has been working with volunteers at Beebe for the last eight years.  She studied and received her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Organizational Management at Wilmington University. For more information on volunteering at Beebe, go to www.beebehealthcare.org/volunteer-beebe.

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