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Marie Miller (left), Dave Fry (right) and therapy dog Yoda are part of the pet-assisted therapy team at Bayhealth.

If there’s anything that will help a patient pause (paws?), smile and feel better, it’s a visit from a four legged friend from the Bayhealth Medical Center Volunteers.

“You can see the patients’ face light up when they meet our therapy dogs. They always smile and cannot wait to make friends with their new therapist,” said Bayhealth Volunteer Director Terry Schrenker.

According to Schrenker, Bayhealth therapy animals and their human companions serve at both Kent General Hospital and Milford Memorial Hospital, providing an enjoyable diversion to patients, visitors, and staff. Often, their pets are a pleasant reminder of the personal pets the patients are missing during their stay in the hospital. All of the therapy animals are adorable, friendly, and lovable, and they touch everyone they encounter. These volunteers and their dogs epitomize the Planetree model of patient care that has been implemented at Bayhealth.

Research has supported what Schrenker sees everyday when therapy animals and their human companions visit sick patients at Bayhealth Medical Center.

According to a study presented to the American Heart Association, animal therapy dramatically improves the physical health of cardiac patients. During the study, 76 cardiac patients received 12 minutes of animal therapy, interacting with canine therapists. The research showed that the canine interaction reduced systolic pulmonary artery pressure by five percent, slashed patient anxiety by 24 percent, and led to a 17 percent drop in the stress producing hormone, epinephrine. Patients who interacted with human therapists experienced no decrease in blood pressure, and a significantly smaller decrease in epinephrine.

“The therapy animals truly help our patients heal. Their service has made a difference in many people’s lives,” said Bayhealth Guest Relations Manager JoAnn Glenn-Lewin, PHR.

If you and your pet would like to volunteer for Bayhealth Pet Assisted Therapy, please contact Bayhealth Volunteer Services Coordinator Terry Schrenker at (302) 744-7466.

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