OCTOBER 16, 2014, AGANA HEIGHTS, Guam (NNS) – U.S. Naval Hospital Guam and its Red Cross Chapter launched the first animal-assisted therapy program at the hospital during a cake cutting ceremony, Oct. 15.
The ceremony welcomed the hospital’s newest four-legged Red Cross Volunteers: Millie, Shana, and Luna.
“We will be bringing in dogs that are completely screened for health and behavior,” said Amanda Mitchell, Red Cross volunteer and pet visitation coordinator. “They will be with their respective handlers visiting with patients and staff.”
Mitchell, who was inspired by her dog Luna, spearheaded the program with hopes of bringing cheer and comfort to others during difficult times.
Millie, Shana, and Luna are certified pet therapy dogs who have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they can be integrated into the hospital environment. The handlers have also been certified in order to participate in the program.
“We want to help patients with any of the psychological aspects associated with going to the doctor such as fear or even feelings of grief,” said Lt. Stacie Groves, one of the Pet Visitation coordinators and a nurse who works in the hospital’s Mother Baby Unit. “The dogs can provide a sense of companionship as well as a sense of unconditional love and joy.”
Pet therapy is believed to have many benefits, not only for patients but staff as well, including personal and social development, increased self-esteem, improved mental health, better social skills and increased empathy and nurturing skills. The dogs will be seen at the hospital on various days during the week; information will be provided on the hospital’s Facebook page. Mitchell and Groves are hoping to expand the program and those interested in participating should contact the hospital’s Red Cross Office.
For more news from U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, visit www.navy.mil/local/nhguam/.