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Therapy Dogs Are Giving Support Back To Hospital Workers Who Are Helping Us Through The Pandemic

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Four college women with grey jackets on sit on the floor in a circle and spend time with the King Charles Spaniel therapy dog.
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Dogs are known as man’s best friend. The relationship of a human with a dog holds a special bond. They have a way of expressing unconditional love, loyalty, and support to humans without even having to say a word.

Dogs serve as source stability within their dog owner’s lives. They are constant companions that do not provide judgment. These loyal canines stick by their owner’s side and ask for nothing in return besides maybe an occasional belly rub or treats.

There has been a direct correlation found in the physical and mental health of people after having a human-dog interaction. Dogs have been shown to be able to perceive the emotions of a human accurately. For these reasons, dogs have been trained for many years as therapy dogs. 

Dogs are the perfect therapy animal. They have an innate ability to provide love and a sense of comfort and security in stressful situations.

 The main goal of therapy dogs is to brighten the day of people they interact with. The therapy dog can go anywhere with its owner to provide a sense of well-being and safety. 

Therapy dogs are trained in various therapy situations. The main traits that therapy dogs execute range based on the context of their work and what is needed of the animal. Despite this, therapy dogs are often confident in personality, tolerant of animals and people, and are well behaved in public places.

The main breeds of dogs that tend to be best suited as therapy dogs include: Labrador Retriever, Labradoodle, Corgi, Poodle, Pug, French Bulldog, King Charles spaniel, and Bichon Frise.  

A hopsital worker with a blue jacket, jeans, purple socks, and black work boots sits on the curb while petting a white  therapy dog.
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With these difficult and uncertain times during the pandemic, support is absolutely vital. Hospital workers are essential workers. They have been working copious amounts of hours on the frontlines against this virus.

They constantly are doing their jobs. They put their health and lives on the line in order to help others and the greater community. They are fighting the pandemic head-on.

While their work is extremely commendable, it can serve as cumbersome for the workers. Hospital workers have to work long shifts in their protective gear.

The protective gear has been shown to give bruises and hurt people’s ears. The work of hospital workers appears to be high stress due to the prolific amount of demand required.

Besides just physical labor involved in this role, hospital workers face an emotional burden and high levels of stress. Hospital workers need support in return during this time. For all that the hospital workers are giving, they need something in return.

Recently, therapy dogs have made their presence known during the pandemic. Therapy dogs have been directly helping hospital workers relieve their stress. This has been seen by therapy dogs either coming into hospitals, going on video chat, and using social media to help out.

 Therapy dogs have been extremely helpful in aiding the mental health of hospital workers in these three platforms. 

The first platform for therapy dog help is in person in hospitals. In the Denver medical centers, a yellow lab puppy named Wynn is available to see. Wynn waits in hospitals to be seen by hospital workers like clinicians, staff, and emergency responders. These hospital workers desperately need emotional support during this stressful pandemic which therapy dogs can provide.

Before going to see Wynn, hospital workers wash their hands thoroughly before seeing him. Hospital workers have reported receiving much joy from seeing the therapy dog. Further, there is a dog in Texas providing a similar source to a senior citizen center. Whether it is senior citizens or hospital workers, therapy dogs have been able to bring happiness in person in these stressful times for people.

The second platform for therapy dogs is an online video chat. A therapy dog company in Texas, called Divine Canines, has put its therapy dog service online. The online mode follows other various companies across the United States.

They have had to switch to an online method because of the uncertainty involved with the pandemic. This online measure is in place because hospitals and other healthcare facilities have restricted the number and types of visitors allowed.

Further, this online platform is also in place for a matter of convenience for people to access it due to the stay at home orders in place across the nation. People can set up appointments online to video chat with therapy dogs.

Additionally, there is also an option to receive a pre-recorded video of the therapy dogs. Many of these videos have been sent to hospital workers, patients, and immunocompromised people.

The videos, whether live or prerecorded, have contributed to shedding positivity within communities. In particular, it aims to use therapy dogs to provide hospital workers with some inspiration. 

The third platform for therapy dogs is social media. A famous therapy dog, named Loki, has taken social media by storm. Loki and his owner are based in Maryland and used to go to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore three times a week.

Since the pandemic started, Loki and his owner have followed the stay at home orders, but their presence in the community is still prominent. Therapy dog Loki’s social media has been used to ask for donations in “hero healing kits”. The kits are for hospital workers. They consist of skin lotion, tea, baby powder, chapstick, chewing gum, and moisturizer. Loki’s owner has used Facebook and Instagram to promote the kits.

Further, the owner has an Amazon wish list where items can be found to buy for the kits for the hospital workers. The social media has been successful, as there have been over 1,400 kits donated with 200 more in the works. Currently, the kits have been donated to four hospitals in the Baltimore area This idea has even spread beyond Baltimore.

Places in New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and other areas of Maryland have started to make the kits as well. Besides the kits, Loki has been able to act as a therapy dog for hospital workers.

Loki uses FaceTime to connect with hospital workers to provide virtual stress relief. Therapy dog Loki’s contributions have helped hospital workers as well as inspire communities to help out and take action.

A white Labrador Retriever therapy dog wearing a "Happy Tails" scarf on its neck is sitting.
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As seen through the three mentioned examples, interacting with therapy dogs can be life-changing. They can help anyone significantly improve their mental health.

Benefits like comfort, a decrease of anxiety, lifting spirit are plentiful in therapy dog patients. Further, they provide physical benefits too. Research has shown a reduction in blood pressure, lowering of physical pain, better cardiac health has been found in therapy dog patients.

There have been findings of improving recovery time and longer motivation to work more in patients when therapy dogs were present.

They also have a strong presence in literacy, as there is a program called PAWS for Reading. This program has therapy dogs present to help students read. Findings including improved literacy skills, better focus, and an increase in self-confidence have been tied to this program. 

 These mental and physical benefits of therapy dogs have been the perfect reason to provide their services to hospital workers during this time. Oftentimes, people might take advantage of all of the work that hospital workers do. It is very easy during a pandemic where everything is so uncertain and stressful to lose sight of how impactful essential workers are.

Hospital workers need to feel comfort and help just like they are giving out to so many people. Therapy dogs have been a great and positive outlet for hospital workers’ mental health. Even for a short amount of time, therapy dogs have provided relief and comfort to hospital workers.

Dogs really are man’s best friend. Their presence is a calming force that cannot be described. For this reason, therapy dogs are absolutely essential to help hospital workers right now.