Local hospital uses healing power of pets


    Several times a week, pet therapy dogs make the rounds at St. Mary's Hospital in West Palm Beach.

    A hospital in our area is bringing the healing power of pets to their patients.

    Good Samaritan Medical Center launched the new program that’s not only bringing a huge smile to their patients’ faces but doctors say it’s also great for their recovery.

    Several times a week, pet therapy dogs make the rounds at the hospital.

    “When I walk into the building, nobody knows me. It’s like, ‘Blaze is here! Elvis is in the house,’” said Patrick Flynn. His dog Blaze is one of the therapy dogs.

    Owners say as soon as the patients see the dogs walk in, they instantly perk up.

    “It really gives them a lot of comfort to see him and any of the dogs and pet them, especially when you’re not feeling well the pet therapy seems to just really brightened her day,” said Howard Kirkpatrick, the owner of a golden retriever named Leo.

    Doctors say there’s also health benefits to it.

    Research shows pet therapy can actually lower blood pressure, as well as significantly reduce pain, anxiety and depression.

    It also helps patients who may be sad while separated from their own pets during their hospital stay,

    “I had a lady the other day, she just hugged him and cried because she missed her dog,” Flynn said.

    Owners say these dogs undergo quite a bit of training and testing to become certified.

    Not only do they need to have the right temperament but the classes also evaluate how well they handle loud noises, can they stay calm around food, and how do they interact with other animals.

    Most patients agree, a few minutes with one of these visitors is just what the doctor ordered.

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