Therapy dogs helping patients with cancer
Sometimes all you need is two pointy listening ears and a friendly paw shake to change your mood in tough times. That is where nine-year-old Marco comes in.
The tan Shepherd mix, a trained therapy dog since 2010, has been encouraging cancer patients and giving them a boost of energy as they go through their various treatments.
“I see a lot of depression and anxiety in my patients,” Dr. Choo says. “I know that cancer patients can benefit from the love and interacting of animals, especially a dog.”
The story of Marco and Dr. Choo began in 2008 when she adopted him from the Anti-Cruelty Society shelter. After having him for two years, one day she was reading a story in the Wall Street Journal about the growing number of physicians who were using therapy dogs. Knowing that her dog had a wonderful temperament and played well with others, Dr. Choo decided to enroll him into training. To belong to Therapy Dogs International, all dogs must be tested and evaluated by a certified evaluator. A dog must be a minimum of one year of age and have a sound temperament.
“He was always someone that was well-behaved and I thought he could really help a lot of my patients,” Dr. Choo says. “I hadn’t seen many therapy dogs before so I was intrigued. I saw him as someone who could come to work with me every day because he is kind and comforting.”
Since training, Dr. Choo has brought Marco along when dealing with her cancer patients in hopes of bringing them some joy, love and affection during a difficult time. Going through cancer treatment can be very scary, but nonverbal therapy with a dog is something that can help a patient deal with the stress of cancer.
Marco can come along for weekly visits and for consultations or follow-up appointments. She has received nothing but positive comments from her patients, including those battling with cancer.
“Our patients and staff can’t get enough of our new department “mascot. I have been receiving much feedback throughout the hospital about how much they agree a therapy dog helps decrease depression and anxiety,” Dr. Choo says. “There is something about a dog that seems to give people an immediate level of ease and they just relax around him. He is quite the celebrity pooch to say the least.”
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