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Northwest Community Hospital seeks dogs for patient therapy

Abby, a 4-year-old retriever who has worked at Northwest Community Hospital since 2007, visits with a patient, right, and with Diane Colville, manager of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Animal-Assisted Therapy. Abby's owner is Debbie Kubitz, center.

 

Courtesy Mark Johansen

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Published: 7/15/2009 12:00 AM

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Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights is expanding its Animal-Assisted Therapy program this summer and is asking dog owners and their dogs to get involved.

The hospital is asking for applications from new volunteers to be in by July 24.

Animal-assisted therapy uses the human-animal bond to bring comfort to patients and serve as a diversion from their illnesses.

The program at Northwest Community Hospital has grown to include 50 dog and handler teams. The dogs have made nearly 15,000 hospital-wide visits to willing hospital patients in two years. A few of the therapy dogs are even assigned to patients during Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, helping with physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Studies show a loving dog can assist in reducing stress, pain, anxiety and loneliness, raise a person's spirits and even improve their physical well-being. A UCLA Medical Center study shows improvement in cardiopulmonary pressures and neuroendocrine levels, as well as reduced anxiety in heart patients.

NCH seeks to expand the program with help from new volunteers. Teams consist of a dog and its handler, who must be the owner of the pet and at least 18 years old. Therapy dogs can be any breed, but must be in good health, obedient, enjoy people and get along with other dogs.

Qualifying dogs will have a two-hour temperament and obedience evaluation by professional dog trainers Aug. 15, followed by a three-day training session at the hospital Sept. 20, 26 and 27.

For details on the Animal-Assisted Therapy program, or to for an application, visit www.nch.org or contact Diane Colville at (847) 618-7968 or dcolville@nch.org.