Pooches Provide Lahey Patients Pick-Me-Ups

Pet Therapy

Linda Bond sat in her hospital bed, feeling scared. It was her third day at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, and tests concluded she needed stents placed in her heart, a procedure she would undergo later that day. She was visibly anxious.

Then in strutted Buster, and Bond’s entire demeanor changed.

Buster is Carl Kaplan’s three-year-old Westie Terrier, who was there as part of a new pet therapy program at Lahey in partnership with nonprofit Caring Canines, which provides visiting therapy dogs in the Boston area. As part of an initial pilot, every Friday certified therapy dogs like Buster from Caring Canines will visit inpatients and cancer patients receiving radiation oncology treatments. A large body of research has shown that pet visits to hospitalized patients, especially for heart-related issues, actually reduce cardiopulmonary pressure and anxiety levels. Linda Bond would agree.

“It just uplifted my heart and my joy level right away,” said Bond, 73. “I love to pet them and get doggy kisses.”

After his visit with Linda, Buster visited Mary Scott, who was seated in the chair next to her bed. Mary perked up at the site of the cheery K-9 and her voice switched into “puppy speak” as she leaned over to pet him. “Hewooo, Buster. Aren’t you adorable?”

Meanwhile, in the Radiation Oncology department, Stella, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, lifted the spirits of five patients receiving treatments.

“It’s just such a wonderful thing to be able to offer our patients,” said Mary Iodice, director of volunteer services, who helped launch the program. “I was almost in tears watching the patients react. If it can help in some way, that’s what it’s all about.”