Greyhound recruited to visit patients at Hawke's Bay hospital

Left: Andrew Biggs, owner of Felicity, with an intensive care patient. Andrew she’s thrilled to be part of the team. 

Right: Felicity rests her head on one of her favourite patients, Frank Dooney’s, lap.
Left: Andrew Biggs, owner of Felicity, with an intensive care patient. Andrew she’s thrilled to be part of the team. Right: Felicity rests her head on one of her favourite patients, Frank Dooney’s, lap. Photo credit: Hawke's Bay District Health Board

Felicity the Greyhound has been welcomed as the newest therapist at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

She's joining a Labrador named Jessie to visit patients in the Intensive Care Unit twice a week for pats and cuddles.

The initiative is a huge hit with patients, families and staff members.

Intensivist Dr Debbie Chalmers came up with the idea, after learning of a similar programme in Wellington, and says there's been a "tremendous response" from patients, staff, and families.

The dogs were chosen because they both love cuddles and pats, and they're also able to be quiet, provide love to people and respond to commands.

The programme began in August, and Jessie was the first dog to be recruited.

"We conducted interviews for the position of pet therapist and one of the patients, as well as the staff, helped with the process. We couldn't decide between the two well qualified applicants (Jessie and Felicity), and so just had to get both," Dr Chalmers said.

"Intensive Care is a stressful environment, and the visiting dogs not only help patients but they are able to interact and bring joy to families who are also coping with a very difficult time, with their loved ones being unwell."

The dogs are also loved by the staff members.

"A cuddle and a pat never goes astray and can make a huge difference to stressful and demanding jobs."

Dr Chalmers said that not every patient can pat the dogs, such as those whose immune systems aren't functioning properly, but it makes a difference being able to see the dogs wandering around and seeing "a little bit of normality".

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