“No two visits are the same,” explains Nina, 79, who has been a volunteer for eight years. She says she always wanted to volunteer with her dog and learned about Paws for Patients through Pet Partners, a nonprofit that trains, evaluates, and registers animal therapy teams. “I start off by saying, ‘Who would like to see a dog?’ Some people perk up immediately.”
In addition to visiting pediatric patients, the duo also volunteers on the antepartum unit, spending time with expectant mothers who are on bed rest. The women are delighted to have company, she says, and they chat about anything and everything to keep their minds off bed rest.
Many patients love to have Lily join them in bed for a cuddle and a few doggie kisses, if requested.
“It gets the kids giggling and they say it tickles,” says Nina.
Patients who may be too sick to get out of bed are happy to have Lily lie down next to them.
“A big piece of a visit is that therapeutic touch of petting the dog and having positive responses from both ends,” says Kaiser. “When a dog comes in and a patient gets happy, the dog then gets happy. It wags its tail. That helps the child feel a sense of control.
“Everyone who comes into their room is asking them to do something or asking them to come with me,” notes Kaiser. “A dog is offering that sense of companionship and joy in a day,” says Kaiser. “This is something that it so positive and happy.”
For volunteers like Nina, that is the most rewarding aspect of volunteering.
“The best part is seeing children happily distracted, even for a short amount of time,” she says. “Having a pet there relaxes them, and you can see the change in their demeanor.”