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Manu the Spanish greyhound greets a patient in the hematology unit at Juravinski Hospital as part of the new pet therapy on the ward.
April 19, 2023

Paws-up for pet therapy in our hematology unit

There are a couple of new dogs in town and they’re hitting the hematology unit at Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) Juravinski Hospital (JH). Patient pet therapists Manu and Penny have been bringing smiles and warmth to some of our patients.

Two sisters and their dogs

Carolyn and Penny (left) are pictured with Margaret and Manu (right). The hounds were decked out with St. Patty’s Day gear for their visit in March.

Leanne Parsons, volunteer resources coordinator for pet therapy visits at HHS, was excited to onboard this addition to JHs’ hematology unit (C4). “When Diane Crawshaw, system navigator requested pet therapy for patients on C4, I had a pet therapy team that I knew would be a great match,” says Parsons.

Twin sisters Carolyn March and Margaret MacKenzie volunteer with the St. John’s Ambulance pet therapy program. The pair have been providing pet therapy for HHS at St. Peter’s Hospital for over 20 years, and have recently added JH to their visits. The sisters own two rescued greyhounds, with the oldest being Penny, a 13-year-old Italian greyhound, and Manu a younger Spanish greyhound. They also have another hound, Lola, who alternates visits with the crew.

“Bringing the dogs to Juravinski changed a lot of patient experiences,” says Parsons. “Their faces light up when they see the dogs. I see patients become more animated, interested, and communicative.”

Feelings of home

“The dogs have become a transformative part of the program that patients really look forward to,” says Crawshaw.

Many patients who are admitted to the hospital have furry friends at home that they miss very much. “It brings a sense of comfort getting to interact with these sweet dogs, and brings a feeling of home into their hospital rooms,” says Crawshaw.

“It’s a good thing for people, and it fills people’s hearts with happiness,” says Art Rebek, patient at JH.

Parsons adds, “Patients often start talking about their pet at home or the pet they had growing up. These visiting pets often have a calming effect and we see the patients less stressed and more relaxed.”

Juravinski Hospital patient, Art Rebek, always looks forward to visits from the dogs. “When these two come to visit me, it makes my day and brings me the comfort of home,” says Art. “It’s a good thing for people, and it fills people’s hearts with happiness.”

Paws-itively impacting patients

“I remember one patient was sad one morning,” says Crawshaw. “She didn’t want to eat her breakfast, was very quiet, and just really down. As soon as the dogs came through, she instantly perked up and her whole mood changed. She even had something to eat after.”

Patients can’t express enough how this program helps make their day and lift their spirits.

Penny enjoys sitting with the patients she visits and hearing more about their day.

“The amount of requests we’re getting for pet therapy at our hospitals is a clear indication of the interest and excitement of pet therapy in our organization,” says Parsons. “For many, just seeing the pets come to Juravinski has a positive impact on patients, family members and staff.”