AGH Starts Pet Therapy Program


If you happen to see a dog walking around AGH, visiting with patients and guests, don’t be surprised: AGH recently started a pet therapy program.

“Pet therapy can provide many physical and emotional benefits,” says Penny Brown, the marketing, public relations and volunteer services manager at AGH. “Studies have shown pet therapy can lower blood pressure and stress levels.”

A Highly Qualified Team
A pet therapy team is made up of a certified dog and its owner, both of whom become volunteers. To become a pet therapy dog at AGH, a dog has to be a certified member of a pet therapy organization. The dogs and their owners are screened by the certification organization for temperament and intermediate skills; they also have to graduate from an intensive training program. Additionally, AGH requires its pet therapy dogs to show current vaccination records and be groomed 24 hours before their scheduled shift.

Making the Rounds
The pet therapy teams are typically at the hospital in the afternoon and visit many areas throughout AGH and the Medical Professional Building, including the Cancer Care and Infusion Center, Wound Healing Center, waiting areas, and the lobby. The teams also make visits to acute care patients.

“It is really remarkable to see how a patient’s body language changes during our visit,” says Leslie Waligora, AGH pet therapy volunteer. “When Wilson and I initially walk into a patient’s room and introduce ourselves, the patient is normally lying in their bed, quiet and deep in thought. But once they see Wilson they begin to smile, laugh, and tell us stories about their animals at home.”

And patients aren’t the only ones to benefit from visits by these furry friends. “I think staff enjoy visiting with our therapy dogs just as much as patients and visitors do,” adds Brown.

Meet AGH’s Pet Therapy Dogs

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO LEARN MORE about volunteering at AGH, please call Volunteer Services at 269-686-4239 or send an email to

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