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. 

The Benefits of Pet Therapy at The Montreal Children's Hospital