patient with therapy dog
“It’s pure joy, a real endorphin boost,” says Miluse Malac, who was recently delighted to meet Oscar at the HDH site. “Dog are such amazing creatures that you can only feel happy around them."
Matthew Manor

A new kind of therapy is underway at our HDH site, and its three special practitioners—aka Oscar, Sophie and Arci—are scoring pats on the head wherever they go.

A Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever respectively, the three dogs and their owners—John Tamkee, Don Petruccelli and Bailey Dyck—are bringing pet therapy to HDH for the first time, expanding the therapy dog program across Kingston Health Sciences Centre to ten caring canines and their handlers. 

While our four-footed friends have been a fixture at the KGH site since 2002, they were introduced to the HDH site just six weeks ago. 

Clocking five hours of volunteer time each week they’re turning heads everywhere.  When Oscar padded into a crowded Jeanne Mance waiting room recently, patients such as Miluse Malac were lining up to pet the pooch.

“It’s pure joy, a real endorphin boost,” she says.  “Dog are such amazing creatures that you can only feel happy around them.  Thank you so much for bringing them into the hospital. It’s a fantastic idea!”

Adored wherever you go

Ditto for staff reaction.  In the Jeanne Mance 4 clinic, they typically converge in the registration area to greet Arci and sneak him doggie treats from a cupboard stash. For RPN Ann Marie Mohan, the friendly furry visitor brings a calming presence for patients and a nice breather in the day for staff.

KHSC works in partnership with St. John Ambulance to provide the therapy dog program, says Volunteer Services Manager Lynda Laird, explaining that the dogs are pets that are certified to help provide affection and comfort to patients, families and staff.  They differ from service animals, which are specifically trained to assist people with disabilities such as visual or mobility impairment. 

“If you see a dog wearing a KHSC identification badge, then you’re seeing a therapy dog,” says Lynda, “and you’re very welcome to approach and touch the animal.”

As a physician, Bailey Dyck—Arci’s handler—knows full well the impact of pet therapy.

“I’ve seen stroke patients who were quite depressed suddenly light up when reunited with their pets,” she says.  “The more I saw that, the more I wanted to help in the same way with Arci.  And he loves it.  How hard is it to be adored wherever you go?”

In the end, says Sophie’s master Don Petruccelli, the dogs are winners, too.

“It’s simple,” he says.  “Sophie loves people and so I love doing this for her.”