Therapy dogs back at Carle Hospital

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – It’s a program Carle Hospital has had for decades. Bringing in therapy dogs to help calm patients’ fears and anxieties.

“There was a big need for that stress relief, pain control, and just overall emotional escape for our patients,” Amanda Burwell, Rehab admission coordinator for the inpatient rehab unit, said.

The program started in the rehab unit, but grew beyond that. More dogs and their handlers came on board and they would visit patients throughout the facility, but then the pandemic started.

“Our therapy dogs got taken away. They were not able to visit our staff or patients 2020 March, or so they had to stop visiting,” Burwell said.

But recently they were given clearance to allow teams back inside. They’re starting off small and safe. Dogs can only meet with staff members and patients who have been COVID tested.

People in the program know they have to be careful, but also know these therapy dogs can help heal.

“Patients in the hospital sometimes this is the worse time of their lives. So, it’s just nice that we can go visit them and they smile,” Leigh Kauwell, the manager of inpatient rehab, and a therapy dog handler, said.

She said being a part of the program was an easy decision.

“I love people, and I love dogs, and I work here. So, it offered the opportunity to go ahead and combine all of those loves,” she said.

And they’re excited to have the program back and helping others.

“They love it. We actually did a staff visit a couple of weeks ago on a floor that was particularly struggling because they were so stressed out, and he sat on the ground, and they all sat around him and they just pet him, and loved on him, and just forgot about the stresses of the day,” she said.

It’s a lengthy process to get you and your therapy dog into the program, and the dogs don’t just go to any room or area of the hospital. They said there are a lot of things they look at before sending a dog and its handler to the area they’re requested.

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