Wonder Pets

A pet visitation program brings comfort and joy to patients

Animal-assisted activities (AAA) help improve patient recovery outcomes in medical facilities by providing motivational, physiological, recreational and therapeutic benefits. Human-animal interactions nurture feelings of empathy, encourage socialization, and foster a connection of mutual trust and acceptance.

Precertified dogs participate in “meet and greet” activities with patients, providing comfort and joy to both patients and staff. All of the pets and their owners complete a certification process conducted through Delta Society’s Pet Partners Program. These special canine volunteers are not considered service animals. The Volunteer Services Department at Henry Mayo has managed this program since it started in 2001. There are currently 21 precertified dogs who visit patients once or twice a week, on average. 

When dogs enter the hospital on any given day, staff and visitors alike stop to pet them and ask questions about the program,” said Maria Strmsek, Director 
of Volunteer Services. “The sweet disposition of these animals brings smiles to whomever they encounter as they walk through the halls.

The pet visitation program has received positive feedback from patients and the volunteers who participate and has grown over the years. Many patients say that they truly enjoy bonding with the animals. The dogs can open a channel of emotionally safe, nonthreatening communication between the patient, volunteer and medical staff caring for them. The presence of the animals serves to brighten the atmosphere during a patient’s hospital stay, bringing amusement, laughter and play and helping patients feel less isolated. IYH

To learn more about volunteering, go to our website.  

Program Benefits 

• Understanding the feelings and motives of others
• Reducing stress and anxiety
• Increasing feelings of mutual trust or bonding
• Receiving unconditional affection
• Positive effects on basic function (i.e., relaxation)
• Increasing communication and interactions with others