Our feelings of companionship toward dogs is strong, and their comforting effects have been recognized for years. Even Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, recommended “a small pet animal” as an “excellent companion for the infirmed.” She used pets with wounded soldiers in the early 19th century and found that pets were companions in the healing process.
Knoxville Hospital & Clinics (KHC) offers an animal-assisted therapy program for our patients that helps with their emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. Such benefits include a decrease in loneliness, stress, blood pressure, and heart rate, which all contribute to improvement of patient outcomes.
“Dogs have an overwhelming gratitude and exuberance for life and this effect on people is astounding,” said KHC’s Activity Leader.
Animal therapy involves using any animal for providing emotional support. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, and horses are some of the animals that have been used as therapy for humans. The most common therapy animal is a dog. Therapy dogs are strenuously trained and evaluated on special commands and good behavior. Therapy dogs must know how to sit, stay, lie down, and come. Several rules and regulations must also be adhered to as a therapy dog owner.
KHC currently has several dog/handler teams visiting patients in the hospital. Each of the dogs have, at minimum, Basic Obedience graduation certificates. Our current animal therapy dogs are:
- Ava, Shih Tzu (AKC Good Canine Certificate), owner Alice Kincaid
- Chance, English Cocker Spaniel (AKC Good Canine Certificate), owner Jim Schultz
- Coco, Havanese (AKC Good Canine Certificate), owner Dorothy Brown
- Cole, Shetland Sheep Dog/Sheltie (AKC Good Canine Certificate), owner Sandra Lewis
- Luke, Goldendoodle (AKC Good Canine Citizen Certificate), owner Kirsten Meyers
- Luke S., Lab mix (AKC Good Canine Citizen Certificate), owner Amanda Short
- Messi, Labradoodle (Puppy Socializing Certificate and Beginning Dog Obedience Class Certificate), owners Julie and Charley Fisher
- Phoebe, Beagle/Basset Hound (Good Canine Citizen Certificate and International Therapy Dog), owner Nancy Thorpe
- Ruby, Chesapeake Bay Retriever (AKC Good Canine Certificate and International Therapy Dog), owner Tamara Alexander
- Stevie, Pembroke Welsh Corgi (AKC Good Canine Certificate and International Therapy Dog), owner Judy Kinney
- Winston, Golden Doodle (AKC Good Canine Certificater), owner Alissa Napel
If you would like to become part of the animal-assisted therapy program at the Knoxville Hospital & Clinics, call 641-842-7211 and ask for the Activities Program leader.