Big dogs, big love: Pet therapy has positive effects on Cabrini patients, staff
They're big dogs that put big smiles on people's faces. Plus, they lift spirits, ease stress and lower blood pressure. That's what George and Zoe, two 7-year-old English Mastiffs do for associates and patients alike at CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital.
George and Zoe and their handlers, Joni and Keith Simmons are part of Pets & People Therapy Animals of Central Louisiana.
"We're a volunteer organization that uses our pets for pet-assisted therapy," said Joni.
"The dogs are wonderful up here," said Tiuana McDonald, an RN in the pediatric unit.
She immediately knelt down to pet George's head who enjoyed the attention once they were brought onto the floor.
"We have patients - they're stressed because they are in the hospital and they just need that extra little bit of love and the dogs can offer that," she said.
McDonald said the dogs have many positive effects such as lowering blood pressure and raising endorphins.
"They're great for our pediatric patients and adults," she said.
Prior to COVID-19, pets and their handlers made regular visits to patients at the hospital and nursing homes in the area. They were also part of a program at the Rapides Parish Library in which children could read to the pets. All that had to stop because of the pandemic.
But Patrick Braquet, Vice President of Mission Integration at Cabrini, decided their associates could use pet therapy as well.
Since December the organization has brought pets to visit the associates "during this rough time with COVID," said Joni.
"We love to pet the dogs," said McDonald. "They're therapeutic for us, too. If we're having a bad day, we can come love on the dogs.
"Associates need to be made happy and appreciated and to relieve the stress that they are under," said Joni.
"I've never seen dogs that big," said Erneshia McKinely, CNA. She has seen George and Zoe on prior visits but not up close. "That's why I was so amazed to see them."
McKinley didn't pet George or Zoe.
"But I took pictures for my little boy so he could see them when I get home," she said.
"They're very friendly and they're very calming," said Kerry Garrigan, RN who also loved all over George. "It's nice to take a little break from the stress and hecticness to pet them and relax and bring your blood pressure down. They're a really good impact on morale."
For more information about Pets & People Therapy Animals of Central Louisiana, visit their Facebook page.