Furry visitors bring healing, happiness to cancer patients for the holidays

Special furry visitors bring some holiday cheer to patients at cancer center

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The holidays can get especially lonely for patients stuck in a hospital, but there were some special visitors this week at Baton Rouge General’s Pennington Cancer Center.

Just like a doctor or a nurse, four-legged attendants have a schedule to keep. Their hospital rounds bring a different kind of healing to patients.

These therapy dogs come from a 10-year partnership with the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. They visit patients at the Pennington Cancer Center twice a month.

Research shows that even a 10-minute visit can have real health benefits.

“It’s been shown to decrease anxiety, blood pressure, pulse, pain levels, again all without any type of medication. Just reaching out and touching a little furry friend,” says Zack Smith, Director of Radiation Oncology at Pennington Cancer Center.

The visits help family members, hospital staff, and even the volunteers who bring the pups.

Saint, a therapy dog, visits cancer patients at Baton Rouge General's Pennington Cancer Center.
Saint, a therapy dog, visits cancer patients at Baton Rouge General's Pennington Cancer Center. (Source: WAFB)

“It’s a joy to get to see the patients happy. Some cry, some smile, some laugh, and that’s the best part of it,” says Sarah Brunet, volunteer for Tiger HATS.

The dogs go through extensive screening and training before becoming therapy dogs. They're also bathed and sequestered 24 hours ahead of each visit.

“These animals come in, they see some very sick people, and what we never want to do is increase the risk of somebody gaining a micro organism or get infected with something out in the general population,” Smith says.

It's something the patients look forward to; a break from their sterile routine.

“Two dogs come visit me, tickled the heck out of me,” patient Feddie Carter said.

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