Patients at RMH find comfort in canine companionship. The hospital launched the pet therapy program “Loving Tails” on Thursday, February 14. The program brings volunteer therapy dogs to visit patients.
Oncology nurse and pet therapy program coordinator MaryAnn Locsmondy saw first-hand the positive effect pets can have on patients while caring for Mellany McDuffa, an RHS employee and ovarian cancer patient. She arranged to have McDuffa’s dog, Jack, visit during a long hospital stay. “Seeing the joy on her face when we surprised her with a visit from her dog made me realize how important this program could be for all RHS patients.”
Locsmondy worked with a committee of nurses to create a program that would meet the needs and standards of Rockford Health System and its patients.
When McDuffa passed away, her family established a fund through the Health System’s Foundation to offset some of the costs involved with training the dogs. “Mellany’s dog was such an important part of her life” said Millicent Christopher, McDuffa’s sister and an RHS employee. “Creating this fund allowed us to pay tribute to her in a way that brings happiness and comfort to patients and their families.”
The program is still accepting volunteer dogs. To qualify, a pet must be certified as a therapy dog and pass a temperament exercise. Additionally, all handlers must go through the hospital’s Volunteer Services Safety Training Validation Program. Funding is available to reimburse some of the training expenses.
The dogs will visit the hospital on a weekly basis.
For more information about the program call (815) 971-PETS.