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Therapy On A Leash

by Meg Porter
April 13, 2011

Therapy On A Leash

Holliston resident Sherri Hebert and her sweet Corgi Katie Bear bring light and affection to patients at MetroWest Medical Center in Natick.

Sherri is the administrative assistant for Mary Mullany, the Director of Behavioral Medicine at MetroWest Medical Center (MWMC) in Natick. The Behavioral Medicine's Pet Therapy program began in 2002. The local Pet Therapy group Caring Canines was the only group involved with the program when it started. Originally, this collaboration resulted in trained and certified dogs making visits two to three times per week with the hospital's Child Development Unit.


With volunteers like Archie (shown above) from Caring Canines, the program was a hit with the kids.

With a sound foundation in the Child Development Unit, the Pet Therapy Program expanded its offerings of love and affection to the rest of the patients in the Behavioral Medicine Department. This includes their Geriatric and Adult Units.

Through the Internet, Sherri started her research to gain more information on how to grow their program. She found Therapy Dogs International based in Flanders, NJ.

 TDI is an organization dedicated to the regulation, testing, selection and registration of qualified dogs and handlers for the purpose of visitations to hospitals, nursing homes and facilities or any place where therapy dogs are needed. TDI is supported by over 21,000 dog handler teams in the US and Canada. For more information about TDI and their testing requirements check out their web site atwww.tdi-dog.org.


Here is Holliston resident Katie Bear (shown above) at her graduation from TDI. Katie Bear is also a Canine Good Citizen graduate.

The relationship between TDI and MWMC resulted in "wonderful local people calling us wanting to bring their registered TDI therapy dogs to our Behavioral Medicine Units."

Word spread about the success of the program. Soon they were joined by another group called Dog Bones which is an acronym for Dogs Building Opportunities for Nurturing and Emotional Support.

This is Mariah (shown above) from Dog Bones of Massachusetts. As you can see, these Certified Pet Therapists come in all shapes and sizes.

Today there are approximately thirty dogs and their handlers trained and ready to share their love for humankind. Their visits are annnouced in advance by posting flyers with a picture of the dog and a small bio written by the owner. This way the patients know who's coming and a little about the dog before the actual visit.


Patients are gathered in a group setting four to five times a week to welcome the dogs and their handlers. There is an immediate change in the patients' faces when these wonderful dogs and their human volunteers finally arrive. There are smiles all around. Even the timid patients find their way to the floor sitting with the dog's head in their lap to just receive the "unconditional love" for the thirty-minute visit. These moments allow the patients to forget their worries and relax.

The thing about dogs is that they don't care what we look like, whether we're rich or poor, old or young or sick in body. They can connect with our spirit. Dogs don't treat us differently if we are feeble or handicapped. They don't care where we come from and do not judge us for any reason. "They don't look away if we don't look like the current perception of human beauty and can respond to the needs of human kind, offering a brief respite from our grief, suffering or loneliness."


To see more therapy dogs and learn more about the Pet Therapy Program at MetroWest Medical Center in Natick. Please go to their website www.mwmc.com/community-resources/therapy-dogs.aspx.

Thank you, Sherri, for sharing this inspirational program and Katie Bear with HollistonReporter.com readers.


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