CVMC Therapy Pets Provide Comfort for Patients
HICKORY, N.C. - Throughout the halls of Catawba Valley Medical Center (CVMC),
you’ll find nurses, doctors, staff members, and patients. Occasionally,
you’ll even find a four-legged friend.
After a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pet therapy program
at CVMC is back in operation. One of the pets that frequents the hospital
most often is Oslo, a 4-year-old Labradoodle certified by the Alliance
of Therapy Dogs (ATD). Accompanied by his owner, Anthony Diem, Oslo walks
through the various floors of CVMC greeting anyone who might need a little
extra puppy love.
“It means a lot to me to be able to bring happiness to patients,”
Diem said. “Being in the hospital isn’t usually fun so it’s
awesome to bring smiles to their faces.”
Oslo has been volunteering as a pet therapy dog for three years, a journey
that first began at CVMC. However, Oslo isn’t the first pet therapy
dog to offer services at the hospital.
CVMC began its pet therapy program in 1999 with a residential dog on duty
named Case E. After 10 years of work, the poodle retired in 2009.
“Since Case E’s retirement we’ve had a number of pet
therapy volunteers brightening the day of staff and visitors,” said
Heather Bissell, CVMC’s Inpatient Rehab Care coordinator, Heather
Bissell. “The volunteer teams visit most parts of the hospital.
If you’re having outpatient surgery and need a distraction prior
to or after the procedure, if you’re in the Inpatient Rehab unit
and need help coping with missing your pet due to a longer hospital stay,
or maybe you’re in one of our patient rooms or waiting areas throughout
the hospital — our pet therapy teams go everywhere to provide comfort.”
Pet therapy can provide both physical and emotional relief. Physical benefits
include lowering blood pressure and overall pain, as well as improving
cardiovascular health. Emotional benefits include reduced anxiety and
loneliness, increased socialization, and reduced depression.
Right now, CVMC has four total pet therapy teams, although not all have
returned to a regular volunteer schedule since the pandemic restricted
“We’re always open to accepting pet therapy volunteers but
there is a process,” Bissell said. “Volunteer teams would
need to be trained, as we do not provide training, and they need to have
a pet therapy certification through an organization such as Therapy Dogs
International (TDI) or Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD). Information about
each certification requirement and testing is easily found online.”
To learn more about the innovative care being offered at Catawba Valley
Medical Center, visit CatawbaValleyHealth.org.