Above: Photo courtesy of Grady Hospital

Patients at Grady Hospital can now get a helping paw from certified therapy dogs on their road to recovery, thanks to the new Grady Dog Therapy Program.

Research has shown that interaction with therapy dogs can substantially ease patients’ physical and emotional pain, and Lindsay Caulfied, Chief Experience Officer for Grady Health System, puts it more plainly: “Our dogs help patients heal.”

Caulfield said the dogs have been introduced into Grady’s trauma, cardiac, burn, stroke and neuroscience departments to help critically ill or injured patients. All dogs involved in the program are certified through Pet Partners or Happy Tails.

“Since the launch of the program, visits from the dogs have provided comfort, and in many instances encouraged patients to become engaged in their recovery,” she said.

Former patient Jaylen Richardson stayed in Grady’s Burn Center for more than a year, after a near-fatal motorcycle accident in August 2016 caused third degree burns, and led to 34 surgeries, an induced coma, and the loss of his left forearm.

“I was depressed. I refused to work with the doctors and nurses to rehabilitate myself, I just wanted to stay in my bed. But then one day Honey Duke and Peaches came into my room, and something came alive in me. I focused on them, and my pain went out the window,” Richardson said.

Richardson’s transformation and hundreds of other patients like him has made the Dog Therapy Program a staple in how Grady delivers care, Caulfield said.

“It’s not only the patient who reaps the benefits from this program, family members and staff who visit with our dogs say they feel better too,” she said. “We’re adding more therapy dogs to the line-up so we can reach even more patients and staff with this comforting program.”

For more information, visit gradyhealth.org/grady-furlunteer.