DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — A corps of canines roams the hallways of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center, a prescription of sorts for what ails patients — and staff.
Pet therapy dogs, from the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association, have brought bedside comfort to patients and to passers-by who snap pictures with smart phone cameras and reach to pet the animals as they scurry down hallways with a human entourage in tow.
At last count, with 20 dogs in the ranks, the program is considered the largest of its kind in the Air Force, officials said.
Dan Druzbacky, Wright-Patterson Medical Center director of staff, found himself a patient in his own hospital suffering from hip problems. Laying in a hospital bed, he petted Lacey, a blond-colored, mixed-breed dog eager to give attention.
Druzbacky needed relief after all the poking, prodding, pushing and pain of medical tests.
"It's not only the patients that need therapy, it's the staff as well," he said. "(The dogs) are a great stress relief.
"They're so calming," he said. "They don't expect much from you at all."
Studies show pet therapy lowers blood pressure, improves cardiovascular health, lessens depression, encourages relaxation and decreases isolation and alienation, among other benefits.
"Pet therapy is a proven thing," said Gerry Coen, Lacey's owner.
The dogs have free range throughout most of the medical center, visiting cancer to kidney dialysis patients.
"It just offers a stress relief, a sense of serenity and calmness," said Col. Pennie G. Pavlisin, commander of the 88th Inpatient Operations Squadron. "It's come to the point where many of our officers have dog treats next to the candy bowl."
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