Thanks to a generous gift from the Joseph and Karen Krantz Family Charitable Foundation, the Nyman Family Unit for Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellness has just added a brand new furry and wet-nosed staff member, who goes by the name Parker.
Parker is the latest addition to Michigan Medicine's Paws4Patients program, which began in 2016. The Paws4Patients program has four additional dogs: Denver, Anna, Bindi, and Fawn. These dogs are specially trained by Canine Assistants to work with the needs of patients at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and throughout Michigan Medicine.
“The Krantz family has made gift donations to Mott Children’s Hospital before, so when we got the idea to get a facility dog, I thought of them,” said Courtney Metzger, the assistant director of development for the U-M Department of Psychiatry. “They are dog-loving people who want to make a difference in the lives of others. It was the perfect match at the perfect time.”
Studies show that interactions with trained therapy or facility dogs and other animals are beneficial for both mental and physical health. Interacting with animals causes your body to release chemicals to help you relax, resulting in lower levels of anxiety and higher levels of comfort. Additionally, interacting with animals may lower blood pressure and even reduce physical pain.
Prior to exploring the possibility of a unit-based facility dog, the unit hosted volunteer pet therapy on Saturday’s. These sessions quickly became most well-attended group, engaging children who had previously not attended other programmatic offerings. With the level of emotional work that the patients and families must do, the unit believed it was time to get a full-time dog of their own.
“The patients would say no one at the hospital understood them or what they were going through, but they all would talk about their pets,” explains Jeanette Hokett, MA- Ed., BSN, RN, nursing supervisor within the Department of Psychiatry. “The children have a deep connection and feel unconditional love and support from their animals that they don’t think they can get from anyone else.”