Dustin Williams (left), 12, his brother Josh Williams, 10, and Nicole Kennedy, 10 enjoy the company of Cosmos on Thursday at the Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis. Photo by Lisa Sonnenschein.
By Helena Rodriguez
If laughter is good medicine, then pets just may be part of the cure.
Several times a week, volunteers with Clovis Thera-Paws take several dogs to visit patients at Plains Regional Medical Center, as well as to area nursing homes and retirement ranches in Clovis and Farwell.
Patients, visitors and even nurses at the medical center on Thursday didn’t seem to mind seeing the hospital go to the dogs, especially when Kaos, a somewhat large, but gentle, Rhodesian Ridgeback and Cosmo, a black and white poodle, seemed to bring an air of refreshment and smiles to the faces of people inside the facility.
For Joshua Williams, 10, who was in the hospital for a week with a mysterious fever, having Kaos and Cosmo in his room was almost like being back at home with his three dogs.
“Joshua misses his dogs, so it’s nice that he got to see these pets,” Joshua’s mom, Michelle, said.
Joshua’s had a lot of family and friends visiting, but the Zia Elementary student agreed that his four-pawed visitors made his day a lot better. The dogs, brought in by owners, Kris Weaver, a veterinarian at All Pets Animal Hospital, and Charmain Howard, a cook with Clovis Municipal Schools, played with him, his brother and cousins on his hospital bed.
Another hospital patient, Alene Devoter, 78, said, “I think these dogs are wonderful. I’ve got one at home; a Chihuahua. I wish she could come up here, too. I say, ‘let more come!’ I love animals!”
“Animals make you feel better. You can love them and you get to see something else here besides people,” Devoter said with a laugh.
The primary objective of dogs in the pet therapy program is to provide comfort and companionship to patients. In doing so, the dogs help increase the emotional well being, promote healing and improve the quality of lives they visit, according to a brochure from Therapy Dogs International, Inc., (TDI), with which the Clovis Thera-Paws is affiliated.
Clovis Thera-Paws began in 1999 and currently has 20 members and 30 dogs . Weaver alone, owns eight dogs, three of which are certified to be ‘therapy dogs’ while Howard has seven dogs, with three certified.
The therapy dogs must be at least a year old, have stable temperaments, obey owners, be vaccinated and pass a TDI certification test.
At Plains Regional, therapy dogs are taken into the pediatrics and medical units but not obstetrics and surgery areas.
“When the cancer center opens, we will find out if we can take the dogs there,” Weaver said.
The pets not only serve as occasional anti-depressants for patients, but for the hospital staff as well. Many nurses know the names of the dogs and greet them with doggie treats.
“A lot of patients are nonmobile, they cannot walk on their own, so having the pets come in to visit them is a refreshing thing,” said Nancy Lueras, a licensed vocational nurse.
“When some of the elderly are put in a nursing home, they are taken from their pets, so they like having the pets come here,” she said.
Howard recalled a situation in which a lady was placed on a gurney and was waiting in a hallway to be treated.
“The lady was feeling kind of sad and when Cosmo went and sat with her for awhile. That made her smile,” she said.