Sparrow bringing more pooches to patients for pet therapy

(WLNS) – Sparrow is getting some more hands, or paws, on deck to help patients with their stay.

Whimsy is one of now more than 20 dogs assisting patients at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital.

“It kind of makes you forget about the pain which is nice,” Sparrow Patient Abby Loomer said.

Whimsy is a therapy dog whose handler, Rose Pierce, works as a nurse at Sparrow. Pierce says the program is a chance for her to interact in a different way with people than usually does in her scrubs.

“As opposed to being a nurse and caring for patients I can go in and just visit the patients and they see her and they are happy and excited.”

Pet therapy started a few years ago at Sparrow, starting in the intensive care unit. After studies on patients seeing therapy dogs, Sparrow is now expanding their program, because of the health benefits that seeing and playing with dogs can bring to patients.

“When patients feel better they’re more likely to get out of bed, do the physical therapy, their lungs do better, they are less likely to get clots in their legs,” Sparrow Medical Director of Trauma John Kepros said. “This helps to keep them more active, which is an essential part of their recovery.”

Handlers and their dogs go through a training program and get a license online. The dogs bring a piece of home into the hospital.

“It’s just a moment of happiness in maybe a sad time, not so happy situation,” Pierce explained.

Looman is a security guard at Sparrow, but recently went from patrolling the halls to being treated in a bed.

She says having dogs come in reminds her of her pet back home, and gives her the comfort of a friend.

“They can sense more than people can, people’s emotions and know if they are sad, if they are lonely,” Looman said.

Sparrow will be providing brochures about the program to every patient to have the chance to invite a furry friend into their room.

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