PLATTSBURGH — A week had passed since Anna St. Jacques had been admitted to CVPH Medical Center, and she missed her cocker spaniels.
“I love dogs,” she said while sitting on her bed in the hospital, where she was receiving treatment for emphysema.
For that reason, St. Jacques was eager to get a visit from Jazz, a standard schnauzer that makes weekly stops at CVPH with his owner, Tina Hoffmann, to say hello to patients.
The pair are two of several volunteer participants in the hospital’s Pet Therapy Program, which was developed by the center’s Integrative Therapy Committee and works in conjunction with medical treatments.
“We just love to do it, and the patients love it, and the nurses and the doctors all enjoy the dogs, too,” said Hoffmann, chair of publicity/visibility for the Clinton County Canine Club.
She and Jazz began volunteering in the program about four years ago, after each receiving pet-therapy training and certification through the club.
In addition to completing basic obedience and handler/dog training, therapy pets are taught how to behave around medical equipment, children and other dogs.
“They go through a 10-step test, and they have to get all 10 correct,” Hoffmann said. “They can’t miss one to get certified.”
Human volunteers are also required to complete an orientation at CVPH.
Hoffmann visits the hospital twice a week, once with Jazz and then again with Jazz’s brother, Whiskey, who is also certified in pet therapy.
She estimates they visit about 35 patients a week between the two of them.
“It’s really fulfilling for the patient, I think,” Hoffmann said.
She, Jazz and Whiskey also visit area schools, where children exercise their literacy by reading to the dogs.
Of course, Hoffmann noted, Whiskey’s name is altered slightly in the school setting.