On Friday, December 7, Boston Medical Center (BMC) will begin the hospital's new pet therapy program, Healing Paws.
Certified therapy dogs and their handlers, who are BMC volunteers, will visit eligible patients during their hospital stay. Research has shown that pet therapy has both physical and mental health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and decreasing anxiety and depression.
On Friday at 1:00 p.m., the first official visit will take place with BMC geriatric patients. Otis, a black Labrador retriever, who has been certified by NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services) will be visiting patients with his handler Emma Riley, BMC social work manager who was pivotal in getting the program established at BMC.
"Given my experiences with dogs, I have seen firsthand how they can have a calming effect on people. I know that our patients and staff will benefit from their presence," said Emma, who also is a certified animal behaviorist and has trained assistance dogs for years.