NCH seeks lovable dogs and handlers to expand Animal-Assisted Therapy

Northwest Community Healthcare
Updated 5/23/2013 1:44 PM

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (May 23, 2013) -- Lovable canines and their volunteer owners have helped bring comfort and smiles to patients and visitors at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH) for six years.

The hospital'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.

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.

Volunteers need to complete an application. Qualifying dogs will go through a two-hour temperament and obedience evaluation by professional dog trainers on Saturday, June 8. 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 July 13, 14 and 27 -- 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 60 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 57,000 patient visits in nearly six years."

The pets certainly are warmly received. One parent in Pediatrics said her daughter smiled for the first time in days when seeing the dogs. A patient in the Ambulatory Infusion Clinic reported that pet therapy lifted her spirits and made her day. A patient on the Medical Pulmonary floor appreciated that the dogs made her feel calm.

For more details on NCH's Animal-Assisted Therapy program and to download an application for the upcoming training opportunity, visit the hospital's website at, or call 847.618.7963. Sponsorships are available to support the dog and handler teams.

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About Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH)

Serving Chicago's northwest suburbs since 1959, NCH is a comprehensive, patient-centered system of care that serves more than 350,000 outpatients each year, as well as nearly 30,000 inpatients treated annually at the 496-bed acute care hospital in Arlington Heights. The award-winning hospital holds the prestigious Magnet designation for nursing excellence, is designated as a Primary Stroke Center, earned the Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval in 2011, and was awarded the Leapfrog Group's designation as one of the nation's Top Hospitals based on quality and safety criteria. NCH has four Immediate Care locations in the northwest suburbs and operates a FastCare Clinic in Palatine. NCH has a medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians, which includes the board-certified primary care doctors and specialists of the NCH Medical Group. For more information or to find a doctor on the NCH Medical staff, visit