Meet the newest staff member in the Department of Psychiatry: A therapy dog named McCoy is the latest addition to Paws4Patients – an animal therapy program established in 2016 by Michigan Medicine to connect with patients and families. McCoy is a golden retriever who, like his littermates, was named after a television show. He will serve in the psychiatry adult inpatient unit, partial hospital program, and psych emergency service.
Bringing the fluffy canine therapist on staff to visit and cheer up patients took a lot of coordination between Paws4Patients, the Department of Psychiatry, and Michigan Medicine’s Office of Development. Donors David and Kathy Cozad helped make it possible through their longtime generosity to the department. The Cozad family’s gift supports Paws4Patients in many ways, from acquiring therapy dogs to covering the training expenses for McCoy’s handler.
“The Cozad family has long believed in the benefit of easing patient anxiety and distress through the calming interactions with therapy dogs,” said Courtney Metzger, assistant director of development for mental health programs. “We are grateful for their ongoing commitment and steadfast support which has been instrumental in our efforts to add this wonderful component to our services.”
Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, Gregory W. Dalack, M.D., the Daniel E. Offutt III Professor of Psychiatry, agrees:
“Therapy dogs like McCoy have a proven record of helping patients both physically and mentally. The Cozad’s gift will not just benefit our patients, but also their families, visitors, and even our staff.”
When patients spend time with these specially trained animals their blood pressure can stabilize while pain, anxiety, and fear are reduced. The sense of calm and joy that therapy dogs bring to their surroundings can boost morale and might possibly elicit a few laughs, imbuing whatever space they occupy with positivity and light.
McCoy and his handler were both trained in Milton, Georgia by the professionals at Canine Assistants. Its mission is 'Educating the dogs who change the world.' Those who encounter McCoy may find their worlds changed for the better, even if just for a few moments. Interactions with therapy animals, no matter how brief, provide patients respite from their conditions — a welcomed complement to their care.