Dogs: The best medicine?

The Oregon Humane Society presented the 2008 Animal Assisted Interaction (AAI) award to Carol and Steve Doty and their two Maltese dogs, Tinker and Bell. The award honors 157 hours of volunteering in 2008.

The Dotys began volunteering in the AAI program in September of 2007. They regularly visit patients at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and the Ray Hickey Hospice House, bringing unconditional love and joy to those who need it most. This program is made possible through the generous contributions of the Leslie G. Ehmann Trust, with special thanks to Gordon and Charlotte Childs.

Steve Doty shares some of their stories:

"Recently while visiting the hospice facility, Carol and I encountered two nurses escorting an elderly patient down the hallway. Badly bent from age and terribly thin, we learned that he had not communicated for nearly 14 years. As we talked quietly with the nurses, holding our 2-year-old Maltese twin sisters near him so the nurses could hold his hand to stroke their soft coats, he suddenly began to laugh and repeated the words 'doggies!'

"A hospital patient and teacher told us that his recent accident had caused considerable loss of use in his hands and arms. It was obvious from his appearance that he had been a weight lifter and very athletic and that he was having a really bad day. We placed a clean draw sheet on the bed to allow Tinker and Belle to be close to him so that he could feel their soft coats. As we talked, he became more cheerful and talkative, laughing when the girls came to him for treats. Several days later, we received a telephone call from one of his students who, upon hearing about his experience with the puppies, had asked to do a project on Therapy Dogs.

"Hospice visits are always an emotional strain, but one patient made it very clear to us and the medical staff that she was to be wakened when ever Tinker and Belle came to visit. We made sure to honor her request until the end. She so loved to have the girls visit.

"Carol and I visited two hospital patients in the same room last weekend. She with Tinker, and I with Belle each visited with a patient. I happened to notice that there was a patient standing in the hall near the doorway, who was glancing into the room. As we concluded our visit, we encountered her just outside the door. She with obvious tears in her eyes asked if she could pet the girls, and as we talked with her, we learned that she had just been discharged, but on seeing the girls, decided to wait before going home. She, too, has a Maltese, and was ever so thrilled to see them.

"As we conclude visits, we leave a small wallet size photograph of Tinker and Belle with the patient as reminder of their visit, and to take home with them as a bookmark. A few days ago, we received a telephone call from a patient that had been so thrilled to have the girls visit while she was hospitalized. She had missed her dog very very much and was really depressed over other family issues bearing on her mind. She wanted to thank us for coming to see her, and to again let us know how much she had enjoyed the puppies kisses!"