Therapy dog, Ruby, debuts at MRHS

Ruby the therapy dog

Over 65% of American households have at least one pet according to the 2015-2016 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey. Of these pet owners, 63% consider their pets to be family members and 33% consider their animals to be pets or companions according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). So when patients are hospitalized due to illness or spend time in swing bed before transitioning home, they may be missing more than just their human family or companions, but their four-legged friends as well.

Animal assisted therapy is a growing area of health care that is becoming part of treatment and rehabilitation programs provided by hospitals along with helping to reduce stress associated with hospitalization. There have been small studies that have shown how pets may lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improve feelings of loneliness or depression. It’s not only the patients that feel better after an animal visit, family members and friends often say how much they enjoy the experience as well.

This brings in a new kind of volunteer to Madison Regional Health System, Ruby, the Standard Poodle. Ruby, along with her handler Bertie Thompson, are part of Therapy Dogs International. TDI is a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registering therapy dogs and their handlers for the purpose of visiting hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions where therapy dogs are needed.

Through this organization, Ruby has been tested and certified as a therapy dog. She knows how to navigate wheel chairs, IV poles and crutches. Ruby has passed obedience tests and walked through a treat-lined room without eating a single bite. She knows not to enter through doorways until Bertie has walked through first.

Ruby and Bertie have done animal assisted therapy in other organizations before and wanted to branch out into health care. Bertie is not a stranger to MRHS either, she spent 30 years volunteering as part of the Madison Hospital Auxiliary. And now with Ruby, she wants to continue to do something good for MRHS and the community.

The pair plan to come to MRHS every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00 to 4:00 pm to visit those who wish to see them. Bertie puts a towel under Ruby’s head if the patient wants Ruby to put her head on their lap. She also makes sure Ruby’s paws are clean when going room to room by wiping them down. It is important to note that according to the CDC, there has never been a report of an infection from animal-assisted therapy.

It’s easy to see in Ruby and Bertie’s first visit to a patient’s room that they both have the ability to brighten anyone’s day. Ruby sits attentively while being petted, Bertie and the patient talk about dogs and form a common bond. This duo will likely be generating more smiles and canine conversations at Madison Regional Health System for years to come.

Alerts and News

Memorial Day Hours
Thursday, May 24, 2018

Madison Regional Health System Clinic and Urgent Care will be closed on May 28th in observance of Memorial Day. Urgent Care is available on Saturday, 8 am to noon. The ER is open 24 hours a day.

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