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When it comes to healing, dogs may be the best medicine.
“I swore I felt my blood pressure lowering on the spot,” says a stroke patient about an encounter with a uniquely wonderful healthcare practitioner — a therapy dog. “The dog taught me how to work on my fine motor skills. He would let me patiently feed him one Cheerio at a time using my thumb and index finger.”
The official designation is Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activity. But for patients, the People-Animal Connection (PAC) is as simple as a much-requested visit from a friendly dog. Every month our volunteer teams of dogs and their humans offer companionship and warmth to more than 900 critically ill children and adults. PAC’s core mission is to enhance physical healing and emotional well-being through the canines’ instinctive bond with patients of all ages, cultures and socioeconomic levels.
Dogs are naturally interactive and provide relief from long days in the hospital. The dogs’ unconditional love and attention brighten the day for patients, visitors and staff alike. Medical research has shown that a canine visit brings about physiological signs of relaxation such as decreased blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. In addition, visits stimulate activity in Alzheimer’s patients and in those receiving physical therapy and rehabilitation.
Each PAC team must meet PAC’s strict eligibility criteria and successfully complete a nationally standardized behavioral exam. Following the exam is a lengthy period of screening and training, including classroom studies and supervised on-site visits. This training process can take six months or more.
The program’s success at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center has led to the expansion of People-Animal Connection to other UCLA medical facilities, including UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. This proves once again — if any more proof was needed — that there’s nothing like a wagging tail to lift spirits.
Your gift, large or small, will help us with the training and administrative expenses of People–Animal Connection, maximizing the impact of our volunteers both human and canine.
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