alternative therapies

Pet Therapy

Emotional healing with certified therapy dogs

Our Therapy Dog Program enhances emotional wellbeing, optimizes healing and reduces the stress of hospitalization for our patients.

Getting started

Only therapy dogs and handlers certified through approved therapy animal organizations participate in the program. Once certified and approved, dogs and handlers report to the hospital's therapy dog coordinator, who pairs them with an Adventist Health Howard Memorial volunteer, gives them badge identification and hands over a therapy dog vest.

All visits occur on the outside deck of the medical center. Visits must be cleared by the patient's physician and are then initiated by the patient's nurse.

Orthopedic patients may visit the therapy dog team with their nurse or physical therapist on scheduled walkabouts with approval from their physician. Patients may also be brought to the back deck for visits by wheelchair.

Prior to visitation

A therapy dog checklist is reviewed for each visit to assure:

  • All vaccinations are current
  • Dog is recently bathed, clean, well-groomed and parasite-free
  • Dog's skin is intact
  • Dog is leashed
  • Dog's elimination needs are met before entering the facility
  • Dog, handler and volunteer are free of respiratory or other infection

A typical visit

During the visit, the dog handler is responsible for the therapy dog, while the assigned Adventist Health Howard Memorial volunteer will assure appropriate hand hygiene of the patient. The volunteer will wash the patient's hands both before and after the visit with antibacterial cleanser to prevent infection.

Therapy Dog Program benefits patients and staff by:

  • Promoting joy
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Promoting healing
  • Alleviating depression
  • Providing a distraction from current situation
  • Assisting with bereavement

How to get involved

To become a certified therapy dog handler, visit Therapy Dog Inc. at