Humans and animals have a well-developed bond based on trust, friendship and unconditional love. It has been proven that pets help reduce blood pressure, anxiety and depressed mood for patients of all ages in hospitals and residents in senior communities. One area that is often overlooked is the benefit that pet therapy has on the pet therapist.
Why do individuals choose to become a pet therapist? Little is written about the topic but it’s worth exploring. Sandy Chanoff, is a pet therapist who brings her Golden Doodle, Gracie, to Abramson Center to visit residents. She decided to become certified as a pet therapist as a way of giving back to the staff who cared for her mom who was a resident for four years. Sandy believes that it is a positive experience for herself, Gracie and the residents that she visits. The benefits of volunteering with Gracie are clear to Sandy. It has been proven that volunteering is a way of incorporating service into your life, meeting new people, giving back to your community and having fun. She remarked that Gracie greatly enjoys visiting residents and takes her job seriously when she proudly checks in at the receptionist desk during every visit. Sandy is a retired nurse who worked in many healthcare settings. She is also a women’s violence advocate and is proud of helping women complete Protection from Abuse orders (PFAs) at the Doylestown Court House. Sandy also enjoys taking art classes at Abington Art School where she enjoys painting pictures of animals.
Phyllis Marks is also a pet therapist who began her volunteer journey while caring for her parents. She fondly remembers sitting with her mother at night while searching online for a female Yorkshire terrier puppy. Phyllis discussed how difficult the search was to find the right dog and one that would be right to bond with her ailing senior parents. After searching for almost two years, she met Penny at a breeder’s home in New Jersey. Phyllis feels that it was meant to be since as a child her mother lived in New Jersey in close proximity to the breeder’s home. Penny instinctively knew how to relate and bond with her ailing parents. Phyllis brings Penny to visit people in their homes, at hospitals, senior centers and senior communities. She even brings Penny to the support group she attends at the Abramson Medical Adult Day Center in Northeast Philadelphia. Penny, like Gracie, takes her job seriously and can sit calmly with a hospice patient or cheer up children who are receiving care in the hospital.
Science and research have proven the health and emotional benefits of pet therapy to patients. It is quite clear that Sandy and Phyllis greatly benefit from providing care and meaningful visits to many in need. At the same time Gracie and Penny greatly enjoy their roles and spread a great deal of happiness to the individuals and communities that they visit.
For more information on volunteering with the Abramson Center, please visit https://www.abramsoncenter.org/team/elderly-volunteering/