When 175 lb. Newfoundland Moses Ray comes to visit the patients at CAMC Women and Children's Hospital, his owners have to bring him at least 30 minutes ahead of schedule just to make it through all the staff and visitors in the lobby.
As soon as Moses' paws hit the pediatric floor, patients and staff alike are instantly drawn to pet the gentle giant. Seven-year-old Moses and his four-year-old brother Sampson (a 150 lb. Newfie) are part of the animal-assisted activities program at CAMC which has one main goal: to help lift the moods of everyone they meet.
Moses and Sampson's parents, Steve and Amanda Ray, bring the dogs to visit the pediatrics floor, Children's Cancer Center and the Children's Advocacy Center on a regular basis. Both dogs are certified by Therapy Dogs International and had to pass training tests to make sure they're comfortable around medical equipment like crutches and wheelchairs, and to test how obedient they are with their handlers. Both dogs passed with flying colors and have been visiting CAMC patients for the past two years. Mom Amanda said many times people are taken aback by the size of her dogs.
"Often the patients' jaws drop when they first see us come in. We get the comment a lot that it looks like we're walking a bear," she said. But once patients meet Moses or Sampson, they fall instantly in love and are able to forget about their ailment for a little while. Amanda, who works full-time, often has to take personal days off work when she schedules visits for Moses or Sampson, but for her, the result is well worth the time.
"I just love to see the people we visit smile and take their minds off the reason they're there," Amanda said. Pets have been proven to reduce anxiety and stress, both of which are at an all-time high when dealing with a hospitalization or medical event.
The dogs visit patients in their rooms as long as the patient does not have any contact precautions that would restrict a visit. Patients are invited to pet and interact with the dogs and can chat with the owners about the animals. In addition to hospital visits, the dogs also attend many other CAMC events to interact with the public, including the Teddy Bear Fair and HealthFest.
Kristy Fidler, director of volunteer services at CAMC, is thrilled to have these furry friends as part of her volunteer team. "It's such a joy to see the patients' faces light up when Moses and Sampson come for a visit," she said. "They're definitely our most popular volunteers."
All dogs who visit patients at a CAMC facility must be certified by either Therapy Dogs International or Pet Partners, both national accrediting bodies that ensure proper training and health of the animals. If you have a certified dog and would like to learn about volunteer opportunities, contact Kristy Fidler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Moses and Sampson, you can "Like" Moses Ray on Facebook.