It’s not every day that you see a dog in a patient’s room, but therapy dog Stella, and her handler, Rebecca Pearson, are bringing cheer to patients, staff and everyone they encounter at Anderson.
“Interaction with therapy dogs has been shown to be very beneficial for patients. The act of petting a dog is a stress reliever. It provides a calming effect that can lower blood pressure and diminish overall physical pain, in addition to putting a smile on the patient’s face,” said Dr. Scot Bell, Anderson Regional Health System’s Chief Medical Officer.
Stella, a three year old retired racing greyhound, was adopted by Dr. Eric and Rebecca Pearson last February from Alabama Greyhound Adoption in Birmingham. Pearson said she had always wanted a greyhound, and upon learning how well greyhounds performed as therapy dogs, it was a “match made in heaven.”
Pearson continued, “Greyhounds have a calm, quiet nature and bond deeply and quickly. They also have a low maintenance coat which keeps them from carrying the typical dog odor. Stella’s social and leash training at the race track provided a quick and easy transition to service as a therapy dog.”
Pearson began the therapy dog certification process as soon as she brought Stella home. They started with basic obedience training followed by behavioral training necessary for certification by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD).
Pearson said, “Stella went through several months of training, and then she was tested for behavioral compliance around other dogs, people, loud noises, medical emergencies, wheel chairs, and other medical equipment. We were observed as a team on three medical facility visits prior to receiving certification by ATD.”
When Stella is working, she proudly dons a red vest and collar tag with the ATD logo symbolizing her training and certification.
Registered Nurse and Infection Preventionist Practitioner, Andrea Laird, is leading the therapy dog program to ensure compliance with infection control regulations. “Stella and Rebecca are essentially volunteers, so they have undergone the same onboarding process we require for our volunteers. This includes vaccination requirements as well as education on privacy practices and personal protection equipment. Rebecca has been educated on contamination precautions, places they are permitted, and places that are prohibited to ensure we keep everyone safe.”
In addition, a Patient Representative will accompany Rebecca and Stella throughout their visits and ask each patient if they are interested in visiting with Stella prior to entering the room.
John Anderson, President and CEO of Anderson Regional Health System, said, “We are really excited to be Stella’s exclusive hospital partner. During their first visit, staff, patients and visitors welcomed Stella and Rebecca with open arms. There is no limit to the amount of happiness, comfort and reassurance you can give a patient, and we know Stella will have a big role in that.”
The therapy dog program is open to adult and pediatric inpatients at Anderson- North and Anderson- South, patients at Anderson Regional Cancer Center, and outpatient therapy patients.
Anderson Regional Health System offers a wide range of medical services, including cancer, cardiac, pediatric, surgical, and trauma care. Our healthcare professionals are committed to improving the lives of those we serve.