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Boston Medical Center launches dog visiting program for patients

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  December 10, 2012 10:36 AM

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Emily_Otis_BMC.jpg

(Photo courtesy Boston Medical Center)

Boston Medical Center social work manager Emma Riley sits with Otis, a black Labrador retriever. Riley helped establish the Healing Paws visitation program at the hospital and Otis visited patients for the first time Friday.

A visit from a special friend during a hospital stay can brighten nearly any patient’s spirits, and now patients at Boston Medical Center can expect visitors with their wet noses and wagging tails to help make them feel better.

The hospital has launched an animal visitation program, Healing Paws, which allows certified therapy dogs and their handlers visit eligible patients.

Otis, a black Labrador retriever certified by the National Education for Assistance Dog Services, made the program’s inaugural visit to the cardiac unit Friday. Otis, along with his handler Emma Riley, visited patients throughout the afternoon.

Riley, a BMC social work manager, helped establish the program at the hospital.

“Given my experiences with dogs, I have seen firsthand how they can have a calming effect on people. I know that our patients and staff will benefit from their presence,” said Riley, who also is an animal behaviorist and has trained assistance dogs for years.

Research shows that pet therapy has both physical and mental health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and decreasing anxiety and depression, according to the hospital.

Otis_Close_BMC.jpg

(Photo courtesy Boston Medical Center)

Otis, a black Labrador retriever, visited Boston Medical Center patients Friday as part of the hospital's new Healing Paws program.


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Kaiser can be reached at Johanna.yourtown@gmail.com. For more news about your city, town, neighborhood, or campus, visit boston.com’s Your Town homepage.

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