April 15, 2011

Spending time with a favorite pet has a way of making people calmer and happier.


While they can't be with their favorite pets at home, seeing visitors like Barney, the 6 year-old golden retriever pictured, makes hospital patients feel more comfortable and lets them forget that they're in the hospital for a moment.

Several units at Charleston Area Medical Center use pet therapy for patients.

Barney and his owner, Dick Bradford, often visit CAMC Women and Children's Hospital's pediatric unit and the David Lee Cancer Center.

"Mr. Bradford approached the CAMC Foundation, which his father started years ago, about bringing Barney to Women and Children's, and we loved the idea," said Christi Bissett, child life therapist. "We benchmarked against other children's hospitals and developed a policy for pet therapy."


Barney and four other pets visit the pediatrics unit.

These animals are calm, gentle and well-mannered, especially around excited children. Whether their age is 2 or 12, kids are thrilled to see this special visitor come into their room.

"When we bring Barney in the room, the kids light up. Postsurgery patients, who have been lying in bed, get up. I think they forget why they're here for that quick moment," Bissett said.

Ten-year-old Duncan Lynch received a visit from Barney while he was a patient. "I got really excited, and I wasn't bored anymore. It makes you feel good. Thank you for doing this," he said.

Bradford said that Barney loves people and that people, especially children, love him. "It's fun for me to take him around.

We spend a lot of time together, and we've bonded," he said.

The dog's loving touch provides comfort to these patients. Experts know that animals allow humans to focus, even for a short period of time, on something other than themselves.

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