The Benefits of Pet Therapy at the Montreal Children’s Hospital

There are many reasons dogs are known as man's best friend. They can lead the blind, help warm a home, and even help children who are hospitalized. Pamela from speaks with Helen Magdalinos, a Child Life Specialist at The Montreal Children's Hospital, about puppy love and the benefits of Pet Therapy.
Pamela: What exactly is Pet Therapy?
Helen Magdalinos: Pet Therapy is a programme that was developed here in 2002, where a dog comes into the hospital once a week and spends time with our patients and families.
Pamela: What are some of the benefits of having patients interact with dogs?
Helen Magdalinos: There are multiple benefits depending on the child. For some children, it’s doing physical activity. For kids who have a hard time getting out of bed, the motivation to go see a dog gets them up and going into the Pet Therapy room. Also the tactile senses of petting a dog and playing with a dog are very important, and there are multiple other benefits. They are very individual to each child.
Pamela: How often do the dogs come and visit the patients here?
Helen Magdalinos: It’s every Wednesday, and there’s a schedule, so children can select to either stay for a half an hour or an hour, and sometimes we actually do group activities, so we can pair a couple of children up together.
Pamela: In your experience, what kind of reception do the dogs get from patients?
Helen Magdalinos: Usually it’s amazing; actually it’s always amazing. As soon as they come in the room, their faces light up, they’re excited. Initially they kind of think it’s a toy dog, they get closer, and they’re just overwhelmed by what they see. Often times kids who stay here for a longer time – they look forward to every Wednesday, because they know the dog is coming, and they can do something, so that’s also another benefit of having the program every Wednesday.