UCLA's therapy dogs aid in outpatient surgery
Dog program is showcased in PBS documentary
Several four-legged volunteers with the People-Animal Connection (PAC) program at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and their human counterparts starred in an episode of a PBS television show, "Shelter Me: Let's Go Home." (Web: http://shelterme.tv)
The docu-series celebrates shelter pets with positive and uplifting stories about people's lives being improved when they adopt a shelter pet. The show followed a handful of human/dog teams with UCLA's animal-assisted therapy PAC program as they volunteered at the hospital.
All of the dogs featured were adopted from shelters and now bring comfort to outpatient surgery patients, their families, the staff, and other hospitalized patients. To watch a trailer of the episode, go to http://bit.ly/YVUkn8.
"Our animal-assisted therapy dogs truly provide a sense of healing and comfort that no medicine can offer," said Erin Rice, the director of UCLA's PAC program. "The show will help raise awareness about the real impact dogs can have on our hospitalized patients, and we hope viewers will be moved by the program."
One patient's mother, who works for Reagan UCLA Medical Center as a grant writer, shared her experience with the PAC program in outpatient surgery:1
"While in recovery, my son received a visit from Dixie, a member of the Doggie Brigade, and was given a stuffed animal that he ended up naming after the dog who had visited him. Including the dog's handler, we were helped by three volunteers during the 4-5 hours we were at the hospital. I also cannot say enough about the volunteers with whom we interacted that day; it was clear that they, too, are proud to be a part of Akron Children's Hospital. My son left healthier than he had arrived, but he also left with a feeling about Akron Children's: He felt special, and for that, I will always be a grateful parent and a proud employee of Akron Children's Hospital."
UCLA's PAC is an animal-assisted therapy program in which trained volunteers and their dogs visit patients to provide a more humane environment for patients, family, and staff and to help in the patient recovery process. Started in 1994 with one canine team, PAC has grown to more than 70 teams that visit more than 40 diverse units of the hospital and more than 900 patients each month.
All dogs must pass a thorough veterinary exam and behavioral screening process to be accepted into the program. Screenings are offered once a year for each campus. The PAC program is supported solely by donations.
1. Guiley K. Another special day at Children's. Akron Children's Hospital. Feb. 25, 2013. Accessed at http://bit.ly/XF0PO9.
• Erin Rice, Director, People-Animal Connection (PAC) Program, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles. Phone: (310) 267-8184. Web: www.uclahealth.org/PAC.