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posted: 8/5/2014 2:19 PM

NCH seeks lovable dogs, handlers for animal-assisted therapy

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Submitted by Northwest Community Healthcare

Northwest Community Healthcare's Animal-Assisted Therapy program is looking for more four-legged friendly volunteers and their handlers to help expand the popular program that aids patients during their recovery. Lovable canines and their volunteer owners have helped bring comfort and smiles to patients and visitors at NCH for seven years.

A team consists of a dog and its handler, who must be the owner of the pet and at least 18 years old. Therapy dogs can be any breed, but must be in good health, obedient, enjoy people and get along with other dogs.

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Volunteers need to complete an application. Qualifying dogs will go through a two-hour temperament and obedience evaluation by professional dog trainers on Saturday, Aug. 23. Teams that pass will attend a three-day training course at the hospital that includes mock and trainer-supervised patient visits, and a briefing on hospital policies and infection control practices. The training -- held Oct. 4, 5 and 11 -- will prepare teams for hospital visits. There are modest fees to help offset the costs of the temperament evaluation and training.

Since its launch in 2007, NCH's Animal-Assisted Therapy program has achieved great success and popularity. Animal-Assisted Therapy is a proven method of improving a patient's physical health by providing a higher level of emotional comfort while serving as a diversion from their illness. The NCH program has grown to 70 dog and handler teams that make hospital-wide visits.

A loving dog can assist in reducing a patient's stress, pain, anxiety and loneliness. Interaction between patients and pets can raise a person's spirits and improve their physical well-being by lowering blood pressure and accelerating recovery times.

"The animals provide a dimension of care that is unlike any other therapy," said Kathy King, manager of Animal-Assisted Therapy at NCH. "Patients simply love the dogs. Our teams have made more than 68,000 patient visits in nearly seven years."

For more details on NCH's Animal-Assisted Therapy program, opportunity, visit the hospital's website at www.nch.org/animalassist, or call (847) 618-7963. Sponsorships are available to support the dog and handler teams.

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