Teens Need Canine Camaraderie, Too

Published on 
March 12, 2015

chla-dog-therapy-william.jpgDog therapy visits provide comfort and distraction to patients of all ages, but for teens and young adults, sometimes the dog’s most important role is simple companionship. William, a patient of CHLA, was frustrated and lonely during an early hospital visit. He tells us how that has changed:

I’d been stuck in my room for days, most of the time with no one to talk to. One day, I was so stir-crazy I told my nurse I wanted to leave. She asked me to give her an hour. The next thing I knew, a dog showed up to visit me! The dog hung out on my bed for a long time and gave me someone to talk to and something else to think about. The time flew by.

Now, William says he makes a point of requesting dog visits whenever he’s in the hospital now.

Like the thousands of our teen and young adult patients, William has met many different four-legged volunteers from the Amerman Family Foundation Dog Therapy Program. Our furry volunteers always deliver their unique brand of non-judgmental affection and support. Research shows that therapy dogs can lower blood pressure, decrease levels of stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, calm heart and respiratory rates, and increase mood-boosting endorphin, among other things. A dog visit can also have a profound effect on a patient’s experience of pain, with patients frequently lowering their pain rating up to four points on a 0-10 scale after just a few minutes with a dog.

But sometimes, the therapy dog’s most important role is just showing up to offer unconditional love and understanding.

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