Have you heard the pitter patter of eight new furry paws?
Michigan Medicine recently added eight new furry paws to the employee roster. Bugle and McCoy, who are brothers, joined the Paws4Patients program in June and August, respectively. Bugle is part of University Hospital Social Work/Care Management departments. He supports patients in the No One Dies Alone and Elder Life programs and the adult emergency department. McCoy works with his handlers in adult psychiatry and psychiatric emergency services.
Bugle and McCoy join their four-legged colleagues Anna, who works in Spiritual Care, Bindi who works in the Mott inpatient units and the family center and Fawn who works in pediatric palliative care.
“The reaction to the new dogs, as well as our veteran pups, has been overwhelmingly positive. Adult psych area even threw a new puppy shower when McCoy came,” said Lindsay Heering, director of Child Life, whose department now manages the Paws4Patients Program.
She emphasized that the dogs are just as important to staff members as they are to patients: “With everyone facing fatigue and stress during this pandemic, it’s been so helpful to give our staff members a little morale boost. The dogs change the energy in the room.”
All of the facility dogs come from Canine Assistants, a nonprofit organization in Georgia.
“The pups and their handlers are highly trained before coming to the hospital to be sure they are the perfect fit,” Heering said.
Facility dogs are not allowed in isolation rooms, and handlers assess for patient/family/staff fears, allergies and interest in any visit prior to interacting. Additionally, the program uses a mobile groomer that comes to the hospital weekly to bathe and groom all the pups. They are kept very clean and safe to interact with patients, families and staff.
All costs for getting the dogs and maintaining their health and wellness are supported through various donor funds.
“Our facility dogs work 40 hours per week and provide clinical interventions and support therapeutic treatment goals alongside their handlers,” said Heering. “Their work is not intended for social visits or for patients who simply want to see a dog.”
Each handler also holds down full-time positions and must assess, prioritize and provide care to patients in their clinical roles as chaplains, social workers, child lIfe specialists, doctors and nurses.
Other furry friends on campus
While currently on hold due to the pandemic, Therapaws is Michigan Medicine’s pet therapy volunteer program, which allows for pet therapy consults for patients not serviced by the Paws4Patients pups. That program is managed through Volunteer Services and will restart when volunteers return to the campus.
Leo is another four-legged colleague you might see at Michigan Medicine. He is a security dog that works with Officer Paul Meyers and DPSS.
Finally, many patients also have service animals that support their specific needs. Please keep in mind that these are working animals and aren’t designed to meet socially with faculty, staff or other patients.
For more information about Michigan Medicine’s service animal policy, click here.