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A helping paw

Because patient needs are more than physical

In March, Jackson Hospital introduced the Animal Therapy Program. Jackson has partnered with Easter Seals, a not-for-profit community-based health agency dedicated to helping children and adults with disabilities attain greater

“We chose to work with Easter Seals Therapy DOGS ON CALL because their dogs had already worked in nursing homes and other facilities,” said Shelly Wallace-Henrikson, assistant vice president of patient care services at Jackson.

The animal-human bond has been proven to provide enhanced quality of care and a healing experience for patients during their hospital stays. The program is limited to dogs, and no other animals are allowed to participate.

Ethan McCarron, a high school junior, was diagnosed with lymphoma in late February, and spent nine days at Jackson for his cancer treatment. The Animal Therapy Program was in a trial period at the time, and McCarron was one of the first patients to experience it.

“While I was at Jackson for a chemo treatment, which is miserable, the dogs brought variety and life to my stay,” McCarron said.

4-legged benefits

Jackson’s philosophy of patient-centered care recognizes that the emotional and psychological needs of patients are just as important as their physical needs. Research shows that animal visits may significantly improve morale and possibly lower blood pressure levels in some people. Animal visits can also combat feelings of isolation, and can be a source of laughter and provide opportunities for communication. The unconditional love from animals can touch a special human need.

“Knowing that the dogs were coming to visit made a real difference in Ethan’s time at Jackson,” said his mother, Sue McCarron. “He looked forward to it each week.”
Currently, there are 10 dogs in the program. Their handlers have undergone extensive training and orientation and will visit the hospital weekly.

Find out more

To learn more about the Animal Therapy Program, call 334-293-8967. Or check out the photo gallery at
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