Dogs give dose of medicine at hospital

Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2012, 12:03 pm
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BARRINGTON, Ill (AP) The waiting room of the oncology department at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital was busy last week, with chairs filled by patients and their family members.

However, if the mood was somber, one visit from Jessie, a German shepherd trained as part of the hospital's animal-assisted therapy program, broke any tension.

His handler, Linda McCarthy of Island Lake, announced who they were once they entered the room and suddenly everyone from people in the waiting room to busy staff members, vied for their few minutes to visit with Jessie.

Patti Saylor of Round Lake Beach visited with the dog the longest. Suddenly, it appeared her cancer treatments were the furthest thing from her mind as she gazed at Jessie and recalled the dogs she had cherished.

For his part, Jessie seemed to thrive on the attention. He jumped up onto the chair next to Saylor he's trained to do that, to enable patients in hospital beds to pet him and make eye contact and sat patiently while she stroked his head and talked to him.

'When you see an animal, you forget about everything,' Saylor said. 'It's so nice, so homey.'

That's just what hospital administrators had hoped for more than three years ago when they launched the program. Julie Zuidema, volunteer services coordinator, was fairly new to the Barrington hospital, but she had already started a pet therapy program for Hospice of Northeastern Illinois, and she knew its powerful benefits.

'Wherever the dogs go, they almost always connect with people who can use a moment's respite from their thoughts,' Zuidema said.

Zuidema worked with a team of administrators to create Good Shepherd's program, taking into account dog training, infection control, risk management, finance, patient relations, employee health, clinical education, housekeeping and the hospital's mission and spiritual care component.

After a year of planning and looking at other hospital programs, they started theirs in 2009 with four dogs and handlers. They had a pair of long haired German shepherds, as well as a chocolate lab and a Shih Tzu, whimsically named Sir Woodrow.

Jim Clancy of Fox River Grove was among the second group who joined the program, with his long haired German Shepherd named Sadie. He had been involved with Therapy Dog International and had taken his dog to local nursing homes, but visiting the hospital offered them other opportunities.

His favorite visits, he says, are calling on children in the hospital and watching their eyes light up when he and his dog walk in the room. But he gets nearly the same reward when visiting with adults.

'When we're walking through the surgery waiting room, just to have a loved one of a patient in surgery get down on their knees to hug the dog, with tears in their eyes, is so rewarding,' says Clancy, who is working to train a new dog, Buster, into being a therapy pet.

Good Shepherd now has 12 dogs in the program, ranging from the German shepherds, to a Maltese, a black lab, golden retriever and a golden-doodle, along with such exotic varieties as a Spinone Italiano and a French Briard. Each has their own calling card with their backgrounds to share.

They typically make their rounds during the afternoons and evenings, the better to leave mornings free for doctor visits and other medical procedures.

One of McCarthy's usual stops is the infusion center, where patients receive everything from chemotherapy treatments to pain medication. But they're never too busy for a visit from the dogs.

Kim O'Connor of Barrington reflected on her own dogs while visiting with Jessie, wishing they were as well-behaved. Registered nurse Maureen Daker came over to get in her visit.

'It's not just for the patients,' she said. 'It's for the nurses too. We love seeing Jessie. He brightens up our day.'


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.

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