Program at CarolinaEast Medical Center allows therapy dogs to visit with patients

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) – Patient’s faces at CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern light up when they see a four-legged friend walk into their hospital room.

“They come to just comfort them and give them love, and they seriously lower the blood pressure of the staff and patients,” said Shaellen Thompson, the volunteer services manager.

Thera-Paws started at CarolinaEast Medical Center in 2014 and has grown over the years. “Last year, we had 238 visits by the dogs, and we have 17 of them in our program,” said Thompson.

One volunteer who brings her dog says it gives her something to do during her free time. “Really, it was trying to have a plan after retirement doing some volunteer activities with my love of animals, dogs in particular,” said the Volunteer Dog Handler, Kathy McGowan-Carnes.

She also mentioned that while it’s therapeutic for the patients, it is also therapeutic for her.

“It’s just been a wonderful experience visiting with patients because right away they can get relaxed. They love to talk about their own pets at home,” said McGowan-Carnes.

While the dogs help cheer patients up, they can also help with recovery by encouraging the rehab patients to move their arms so they can pet the dog or throw them a ball.

The patients can spend as long as they want with the dog, from 5 minutes to an hour, soaking in their sweetness.