Pet Therapy Volunteer Program
Stress and anxiety melt from people’s faces when they see these friendly and furry friends from the pet therapy volunteer program here at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital. These four-legged volunteers spread joy throughout the hospital to patients, family and staff, primarily assisting the Emergency Department, physical rehab and the nursing units. The program started at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in 2005 with just one dog. Now the program is made up of over 10 lovable pets and their owners who volunteer a few hours per week, attracting attention wherever they go.
To be involved, the dogs must be registered or certified therapy dogs and the owners are required to undergo the regular volunteer training process. All certified and registered therapy dogs are well-trained, good natured and enjoy attention.
The volunteer pet therapy program greatly contributes to the emotional and physical healing process. Pet therapy is proven to:
- Decrease blood pressure
- Ease pain or anxiety
- Encourage social interaction
- Decrease stress
- Encourage stroke or traumatic brain injury patients to use their hands, take a walk and even speak
- Improve an individual’s overall psychosocial sense of well-being.
Learn more about the volunteering opportunities available at Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals.
Meet the team
Moses and Bentley
Cindy has been a part of the pet therapy program for about 4 years. She started volunteering with Bentley (left) and continues to make patients and staff smile with Moses (right). Bentley retired at 10 ½ years old and his primary responsibility now is “to guard the house from the couch now,” says Cindy.
“I started bringing Moses in as a puppy with Bentley to get him accustomed to it,” Cindy explained. Moses was certified the day he turned one year old.
On their first day volunteering at the hospital, Cindy recalls that a woman was crying in the lobby because her husband was dying of cancer. Cindy explained that after Bentley interacted with the crying woman, she told Cindy that the dog made her feel so loved and that he made her day when she was having the worst day of her life.
Breed: Neapolitan Mastiff
Visits: recently retired
Breed: Neapolitan Mastiff
Tom and Linda Forkin
Tristyn and Calie
Tom has been volunteering as part of the pet therapy program for over 3 years. Tom and Linda’s son was sick in the hospital and they saw therapy dogs during visitation. Once Tom and Linda retired, they decided the next dog they would get would be a therapy dog. They first joined the program with Calie (left), and now continue in the program with Tristyn (right). Unfortunately Calie is sick with a condition that causes seizures and her volunteering is limited. “The employees miss her terribly” Tom said.
Tom and the dogs' favorite place to visit is pediatrics. Tom recalls one time when they entered a room with a 6 year old boy who had several stitches in his head. Tom came to find out that the boy was actually bit by a dog. The father, who was with the boy thanked them for their loving visit. He was afraid that his son would be afraid of dogs the rest of his life after the incident. The loving golden was able to perform tricks and make the boy smile.
Breed: Golden Retriever
Visits: Every Tuesday
Breed: Golden Retriever
Visits: Limited – on medical leave
Trudy and Georgie have been volunteering in the pet therapy program at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital for over 3 years. They both travel to Florida for part of the year and continue volunteering down in the sunny state as well. Upon return, Georgie is greeted by many employees who claim to have missed her presence in the halls.
“Georgie has a fan club of employees” said Trudy. Her claim to fame is her ability to “sing”. Georgie will use her vocals to make patients and employees smile.
Trudy said that on the day of volunteer Georgie will get a bath and she instantly starts to get excited and the word, ‘hospital’, gets her tail wagging. After their visit they routinely go to McDonalds for a special treat – ice-cream!
Breed: West Highland Terrier
Visits: Every Thursday in the spring and summer months
Zena and Jada
Sherry started visiting patients in 2005 with Venus. When Venus passed on, Zena took over, usually dressed in some sort of cute doggy costume. Sherry not has Jada as well. Sherry said she wanted to do something fun with her dogs and spending time with patients and staff has helped her overcome her own fear of hospitals.
“A lot of times, people will say this is the first time they’ve smiled all day. It makes them forget their problems,” Sherry said.
Many patients miss their own pets and just being able to look into Zena’s big brown eyes and pat her head is a comfort. It also lifts the spirits of staff. Walking through the ER with Zena and Jada is like being on a backstage tour with a rock star. Staff and visitors alike stop if at all possible to say hello.
Visits: Every Wednesday
Visits: Some Wednesdays