Since I was a little girl, I have always loved animals. My pets have helped our family so much over the years and I wanted a way to share my love of animals with others. When my son was 23 years old, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. It was a very hard time for him and our entire family. At the time, one of his passions was cars – he loved to drive them, work on them and even had a show truck. With his epilepsy diagnosis, he was told he could no longer drive and had his driver's license taken away. Approximately a year later, doctors found a cancer tumor in his appendix.
He was living in fear – both of having another seizure and thinking the cancer was either still present or would return.
In his eyes, everything was taken away from him. Depression set in and he talked of suicide. If it was not for his rescue dog Rocky, I truly believe I would not have my son today.
Jason and Rocky have a very close bond, and he lends moral support to Jason. When Jason feels stressed or sick and thinks a seizure is coming on, he will lie down and pet Rocky. Rocky knows what is happening and makes sure to cuddle and comfort him while he is waking up after having a seizure.
When I first heard of the Pet Therapy Program in place at Franciscan Health Michigan City, I knew it was my mission to get it started in Crown Point. I wanted a way to bring comfort to patients, staff and visitors.
Therapy dogs can take away the stress of what is happening in their lives at the moment. Many times when we meet a patient, they have just been told horrible news. When they see the dogs, their faces light up. For a short time they forget where they are and some of their troubles. The patients open up, talk about their dogs at home and how they miss them.
The administration, nurses and staff have been extremely supportive of the Pet Therapy Program because they recognize the emotional and physical benefits. Studies have shown that petting a dog prompts the release of "feel good" hormones in humans, including serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin. The staff have seen these effects and because of this, we frequently get requests from nursing staff to visit particular patients.
Starting the Pet Therapy Program has been a dream come true for me. I believe that not only do we rescue dogs, but they rescue us in return.
By Julie Canady
Franciscan Health Pet Therapy Crown Point