Join us on Wednesday, September 9, for a visit from a very special team of dedicated, hard-working care givers… Strong P.E.T.S. (Pets Engaged in Therapeutic Socialization).
The Strong P.E.T.S. program dates back to 2000, when Ann Lacey (and her sheltie, nicknamed “Dr. Rickey”) first contacted Friends of Strong, offering to bring Rickey to visit patients.
Today, Ann and Kathleen Richards co-coordinate a group consisting of 15 handlers and 21 dogs. Each week, the dogs (wearing their trademark red bandanas) visit 14 units, including Pediatrics, Oncology, Orthopaedics, Cardiology, Behavioral Health, Rehabilitation, and Palliative Care. About four times a year, the dogs visit Miner Library.
To be a member of the Strong P.E.T.S. team, handlers and their dogs must conform to strict NYS Department of Health guidelines. Dogs must display the right temperament, undergo two annual health checkups, be meticulously groomed, and pass extensive behavior training and certification by a pet therapy organization. (Generous dog owners pay all fees out of pocket.) Dogs (and handlers!) also must tolerate loud noises, crowds, enthusiastic hugging, laughter, and sometimes tears.
Unit staff report that the dogs are powerful stress relievers and have a remarkable ability to settle anxious patients.
Personally, we have no doubt that Strong P.E.T.S. also help faculty, staff, and students to relax, as well.
We hope you’ll join us.
Pet therapist Ann Lacey has been a therapy dog handler since 1982 and founded the Strong P.E.T.S. program at Strong Memorial Hospital in 2000. For more information about Strong P.E.T.S., contact Friends of Strong at (585) 275-2420.