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Pet Therapy
A Program of the Wolfson Children's Hospital Auxiliary

Wolfson Auxiliary Pet Therapy Program
It is not surprising that the patients, families and staff become attached to the special dogs in the Wolfson Children's Hospital Auxiliary Pet Therapy Program, eagerly awaiting the wagging tails that come bouncing down the hospital halls on their scheduled days. A visit from one of these canines would make anybody's day.

The program's beginning dates to 1994, when Linda Dunn, who had experience with a pet therapy program at a Colorado hospital, approached several organizations in Jacksonville about offering pet therapy at their facilities. At that time, such pet visits were uncommon, but through the vision and efforts of Wolfson staffer Sheila Wilder and veterinarian Richard Williams, the service was welcomed through the Wolfson Auxiliary, and the first dog certified in l995.

Wolfson Auxiliary Pet Therapy Program

Today, ten years later, under the chairmanships of Jackie Wright, Dick Wallace, Pat Ennis and Colleen Whalen, the program is well known and respected for providing comfort and companionship to Wolfson patients, and often used by others as a model. In l997, the Wolfson Auxiliary Pet Therapy Program won the Jacksonville Business Journal's Excellence in Health Care Award.

The dogs' gentle temperaments are apparent as they are hugged, patted and caressed all through their visiting hours. Though they remain sweetly responsive, their tails wag a bit slower when leaving a few hours later, after many "one last hug."

Wolfson Auxiliary Pet Therapy Program

Those who join remain in the program for years. Candy, a 12-year-old black Lab, was recognized in September 2005 for 250+ visits since January l996. The Pet Therapy Program is celebrating 10+ years of service (1995 - 2005) with "tails" of the 8,400+ pet visits to patients and 24,000+ love-pats to pets yearly.

Pet therapy does more than elicit giggles. As the children reminisce about their own pets, the visiting dogs help them feel more at home in the hospital. It is not unusual for a child who seldom smiles or talks to respond to a visiting animal, providing not only a psychological boon, but also a positive effect on his or her oxygen level.

The goal is to have a dog for each day of the week and even with the rigorous screening process and behavioral testings required to join the service, there is never a problem recruiting. In fact, there is always a waiting list. Dogs and children seem to be a natural healing combination, and the four-legged volunteers and their "people" trigger smiles and delight everywhere they go.

Pet Therapy team
A special thanks to these committed volunteer veterinarians who donate their time to the conduct screenings for pet certification: Susan Ridinger, DVM, Robin Chambers, DVM, Richard Williams, DVM, Richard Ogelsby, DVM, and Kandra Jones, DVM

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