Therapy dogs bring holiday cheer to cancer patients

  • Gennifer Kicker, a patient at Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center in Warrenville, gets some snuggling time Friday with Mojo, a Newfoundland therapy dog.

      Gennifer Kicker, a patient at Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center in Warrenville, gets some snuggling time Friday with Mojo, a Newfoundland therapy dog. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Suzanne Farmer, left, with her dog Mojo, brought some holiday cheer Friday as they visited Gennifer Kicker, a patient at Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center in Warrenville.

      Suzanne Farmer, left, with her dog Mojo, brought some holiday cheer Friday as they visited Gennifer Kicker, a patient at Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center in Warrenville. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Gloria Casarrubias of Downers Grove, a patient at Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center in Warrenville, pets Mojo, a Newfoundland therapy dog Friday.

      Gloria Casarrubias of Downers Grove, a patient at Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center in Warrenville, pets Mojo, a Newfoundland therapy dog Friday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Mojo, a Newfoundland therapy dog, comes complete with reindeer antlers.

      Mojo, a Newfoundland therapy dog, comes complete with reindeer antlers. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Melinda Wolfe of Naperville, left, with her dog Flint, and Suzanne Farmer, with her dog Mojo, bring some holiday cheer as they visit people receiving cancer treatment Friday at Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center in Warrenville. The paw print by the door tells the handlers the patient wants to see a therapy dog.

      Melinda Wolfe of Naperville, left, with her dog Flint, and Suzanne Farmer, with her dog Mojo, bring some holiday cheer as they visit people receiving cancer treatment Friday at Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center in Warrenville. The paw print by the door tells the handlers the patient wants to see a therapy dog. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 12/20/2019 4:45 PM

Patients at the Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center in Warrenville are getting some extra holiday cheer thanks to a new animal-assisted therapy program.

Dogs and their handlers are visiting patients, their guests and staff at the cancer center -- most recently on Friday -- as part of a partnership with the Naperville Area Humane Society.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Although animal-assisted therapy programs are common in hospitals, they're less common in stand-alone facilities where patients go for outpatient treatment, said Michelle Green, media relations manager.

When a patient's family member said therapy dogs could bring additional comfort to patients, the Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center team got to work.

Newfoundland Mojo -- who came wearing antlers -- and collie Flint are among the dogs that visit patients who have said they'd like a visit from the pooches. The dogs are a welcome distraction from chemotherapy, infusion treatments and the stresses that come with receiving and giving cancer care.

Studies have shown that animal-assisted therapy can help people with cancer by reducing the anxiety and isolation that happen during treatment for a serious disease, Green said. The dogs connect with patients and their families, and those snuggles lead to the release of feel-good endorphins that leave everyone feeling the holiday spirit. Even the staff enjoys visits from their furry friends.

Patients say the dogs make them feel more at home when they're receiving care. Doctors and nurses say they're a welcome addition to a care team that is dedicated to making patients' lives better.

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