RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Lionso Carrasco was admitted to VCU Medical Center on October 4th. He has passed the time with family and special friends.
“The highlight of my day now,” Carrasco says from his bed in the Progressive Care Unit. “I love when the dogs come to visit.”
Jolly the Yellow Labrador is just one friendly face offered by the Dogs on Call program. Therapy dogs have been visiting patients on and off since the mid-1990’s, but VCU took it to the next level with the start of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction in 2001.
“They reduce anxiety, they reduce fear, they reduce stress. Not just for our patients and their families but for our staff members too,” explains Center Director Dr. Sandra Barker.
Dr. Barker says the Center conducts studies all the time and sees science at work each and every day in the rooms and down the hallways. This type of complementary therapy, even brief doses of it, can be the best medicine.
Dogs like Jolly scheduled regular visits but, like the nonprofit name says, volunteers also fill on call requests from adults and children.
“Usually if you start rubbing a head or an ear, she’ll go right to sleep,” demonstrates Joyce Dixon, Jolly’s human team member. “And the kids will just sit there and talk forever, so we’ll stay as long as a child wants to visit.”
Dixon says Jolly and the other t therapy dogs in the program are insured and certified. They are all trained to respond to basic commands.
“Jolly, Jolly. Sit,” Dixon motions with her hand.
“Thank you. Good girl. Good girl. She’s a good dog,” Dixon chuckles during her interview with 8News Anchor Amy Lacey.
Jolly is doing a lot of good for patients like Carrasco.
“Makes it a lot easier,” he says. “Kinda brings you closer to home.”
Right now there are 65 Dogs on Call teams, but the program is always looking for more. For more information on therapy dog work and how to certify, anyone who is interested can attend a meeting on Saturday, May 7 from 12 to 1:30pm at the Center for Human-Animal Interaction or call (804) 628-2532.