Thrice as nice: Michigan Medicine adds third hospital dog  

July 23, 2018  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Having a ruff day? Here’s a story that is certain to cheer you up!

For the past two years, Michigan Medicine has had two full-time hospital dogs — Anna and Denver — who visit patients and families around the academic medical center every day. Recently, however, the organization added a third pup — Bindi — who makes her permanent home in the Wayne and Shelly Jones Family Center at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Bindi is a young golden retriever who — like Anna and Denver — was trained by Canine Assistants to work in a hospital setting. She learned special skills that made her a perfect match to work with children in the family center, where pediatric patients and siblings can meet Bindi and receive many of the proven benefits of animal therapy.

“Research shows that animal-assisted therapy can lower stress and anxiety levels, improve blood pressure, increase patient mobility and provide an alternative focus from pain,” said Kate Balzer, project manager in the Office of Patient Experience and manager of the Paws4Patients Facility Dog Program at Michigan Medicine. “That’s why Bindi and the rest of our dogs are so important to everyone in the organization.”

Indeed, Bindi has already made an enormous impression in the family center.

“It’s hard to put into words the impact Bindi has had on our patients,” said Ann Hendrick, manager of the family center and Bindi’s primary handler. “Every interaction is unique and each day brings a new joy.”

An important history

For more than 90 years, animal therapy has been in place in some form or another at Michigan Medicine. While much has changed since the days of ducklings paddling in tubs alongside patient beds, the organization’s commitment to the healing power of the human-animal bond remains strong.

That’s why Anna, Denver and Bindi are joined by a robust Therapaws team, which consists of dozens of volunteer dogs whose owners bring them to a variety of Michigan Medicine locations to brighten the day for patients and families. (Readers met Finnegan, one such volunteer dog, earlier this year in Headlines.)

“Rooms tend to lighten up the moment a dog walks in,” Balzer said. “Staying in the hospital can be an isolating experience, and seeing a dog can either connect a patient to their home life or give them the reprieve they need from everyday treatment. It’s a powerful connection — and one that we’re proud to provide.”

Believe it or not, not everyone at Michigan Medicine was pleased with Bindi’s arrival. Check out the video above to see who was upset — and whether or not they eventually came around! And want to see what Anna, Denver, and Bindi are up to in real time? Follow Paws4Patients on Instagram!