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Local hospitals welcome back therapy dogs

Posted at 4:56 PM, Jul 30, 2021

Local hospitals are welcoming back therapy dogs into their buildings.

Therapy dog visits were put on hold following the height of the pandemic in March of 2020.

Sierra Vista Positive Therapy Coordinator Bridgette Bateman said, “Obviously we put it on hold during COVID and we were not having them come in during that time.”

Alliance of Therapy Dogs Certified Member Denise Fitzgerald said, “In Sierra Vista, we are visiting patient rooms now. We did have to go through a re-orientation process.”

Dogs from the Alliance of Therapy Dogs are returning to local hospitals in the community while catering to the patients that have needed the support.

Denise Fitzgerald said, “We’re allowed to go visit anywhere we are welcomed and invited to. Locally that includes the hospitals.”

Bridgette Bateman said, “there is a population of our patients who very much are missing that connection. Often, when you have a stroke, you might have neglect on one side of your body. Our therapy teams will come in and go to that side and it starts that rehab in the early part of their care.”

The smaller dogs can go on the beds of the patients once again.

The only changes are added sanitation for patients petting the dogs.

Denise Fitzgerald said, “We wear masks, we hand sanitize, and when petting our dogs, everybody is going to hand sanitize before touching our dog.”

For therapy dog owner Denise Fitzgerald, she’s used agility workouts and competitions to train her dogs for therapy.

Denise Fitzgerald said, “I had no intention of competing, I was doing it as a way to train and expose my dogs to different things to become therapy dogs.”

Bridgette Bateman said, “This an outlet and immediately you see that stress go away.”

Denise Fitzgerald said, “I love dogs, I love my dogs, and I always thought that if I’m in the position where I can’t have my own, someone bringing one to visit me would be the next-best thing.”

There are 40 therapy teams certified and serving the community on the Central Coast.