Counseling & Support: Canine Therapy

Pictured: The Caring Canines team Dogs in our Caring Canines program help to relieve stress and pain for inpatients. They took a moment to pose here with (from left) registered nurses Melanie Bushnell and Claire Carmody, unit assistant Michelle Smith, and dietitian Jayne Wiprovnick.

Since 2007, our dedicated teams of therapy dogs and trained owners/handlers - now totaling nearly 20 - have visited hundreds of people undergoing treatment for cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Many people who spend time with our nurturing canines find a sense of peace, comfort, and much-needed distraction. Interacting with a dog can help:

  • lessen your anxiety and distress
  • reduce the need for pain medication
  • support you emotionally
  • make you feel more comfortable communicating with your healthcare team

With one of our animals to keep you company, you might also find yourself focusing less on your pain, and even feel more motivated as you work toward recovery.

Our Caring Canines at Work

Studies of animal-assisted therapy have shown that healthy and properly cared for dogs are not a health risk for hospitalized patients. Our Caring Canine teams adhere to strict guidelines. Handlers follow infection control procedures and wash their hands frequently.

Before becoming a member of our team, handlers are interviewed and dogs are observed to ensure they are a good match with our patients.

Participating volunteers belong to the Angel on a Leash program, a charity of the Westminster Kennel Club. Volunteers must also complete training at one of the three nationally recognized and insured dog therapy organizations: Delta Society, Therapy Dog International, or Good Dog Foundation.

Schedule a Visit with a Therapy Dog

Our teams are available to visit inpatients every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Each day, our volunteers visit different floors of the hospital. The program is currently approved for floors 10, 12, 16, 17, and 19.

If you are an inpatient on the day the Caring Canines are on your floor, a volunteer will stop by your room to see if you would like to schedule a visit. During your visit, you will receive a copy of our annual calendar, featuring photos of our volunteer teams, staff, and patients.

To learn more about the Caring Canines team, please contact Jane Hedal-Siegel at 212-639-8623 or hedalj@mskcc.org.