One Inova Hospital in Northern Virginia has three new employees: Bartley, Jeremiah, and Moo. These pooches have just been named Chief Comfort Officer and the patients and staff are thrilled to have them on the team. Research shows that therapy dogs can help patients heal faster and reduce stress among providers.
Mikey DeJesus gets to see Moo, a three-year-old Labrador retriever, and his handler Monika Stolze almost every day as part of his treatment. He was recently involved in a car accident that nearly cost him his life. “Oh, he loves me, ” DeJesus said of Moo. “I connect with dogs way more than with humans.”
Double amputee Mike Keefe says playing with Moo inspires him to follow through with his physical therapy. He plays fetch with the dog while learning how to walk on prosthetic legs, which helps him improve his balance and core.
“Most will just say, ‘You took a step, what’s the big deal?’ It’s a huge deal, now, for me. He’s a big incentive. By your side, basically,” said Keefe. <sic>
Jeremiah, an eight-year-old retriever, spends most of his time sitting at the bedside and letting patients pet him. That alone can be enough to brighten their day.
“There’s something calming about dogs no matter how stressed out you are,” said an Inova staff member, while petting Jeremiah in the ICU.
The hospital recently held a special ceremony to celebrate the dogs’ promotion. “They will now be known officially as Inova’s Chief Comfort Officers,” said Inova Health Foundation President Dr. Sage Bolte during the festivities.
The company also shared a sneak peek at its next round of facility dogs: Rex, Cozy, and Bodhi.
“The dogs who do this love their work,” said Leslie Horton, a registered nurse who founded the program nearly twenty years ago. She spent years researching the benefits of dog therapy and found that the presence of dogs can improve cognition in patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries. They also performed better in rehabilitation programs.
“This is letting them get started into rehab at a much higher level which is going to help them get back into society much quicker,” said Horton. “I always thought I was a really good nurse at the bedside and what I have learned is that the dogs have humbled me because they can reach their patients when we cannot.”