There are few things in this world that predictably make almost anyone smile. Some of the cutest examples of those things can be found trotting down the halls of Memorial Sloan Kettering, dispersing snuggles and petting opportunities to anyone in need of a little furry pick-me-up.
Since its founding seven years ago, our therapy dog program, Caring Canines, has brought comfort and cheer to countless patients, family members, guests, and staff at MSK. In 2014 alone, our team of 20 dogs made more than 3,500 patient visits. Pups make the rounds on designated days of the week as well as holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.
Beyond just offering a break from the routines of hospital life, interacting with a therapy dog can help lessen anxiety and distress, reduce the need for pain medication, give emotional support, and provide a welcome distraction for patients and caregivers alike.
All Caring Canines teams adhere to strict hygiene guidelines to ensure patients’ safety (and all dogs wear their own ID badges). Before they’re chosen to join the pack, handlers must complete training with one of three nationally recognized dog-therapy organizations and go through an interview process. Canine volunteers are observed for behavior to ensure they’ll be comfortable with patients in a hospital setting.
Another perk of the program is the chance to star in our yearly calendar — the 2015 version of which is now available to patients who schedule a visit with one of our four-legged friends. You can pick up your own copy for a small donation at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Gift Shop. All proceeds go to the Caring Canines program.