Therapy dogs bring smiles to young patients, and their families - Tucson News Now

Therapy dogs bring smiles to young patients, and their families

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Many people in Newtown, Connecticut, are being comforted by therapy dogs, coming in from all over the country.

The animals especially are helping children work through the grieving process.

Therapy animals also can help heal the sick, from the oldest patients to the youngest.

We followed a couple of therapy dogs into a room in the pediatric department at Tucson Medical Center on Thursday. 

Do that and you immediately see the effect of therapy dogs as they offer unconditional love and a warm touch.

When you're a child who's hurting, that comfort becomes better than any medicine.

Dogs are called man's best friend for a reason, and Thursday they were a child's best friend. 

Sissi and Reggi are Yorkshire terriers and pet therapy dogs who visit the patients at TMC.

Six-year-old Andrew Campbell-Edmonds wanted to feel better, and he got just what he needed when Certified Pet Therapist Deborah Collins brought Sissi and Reggi into his room.

The dogs were dressed for the season, and riding in a stroller.

Andrew's face lit up, and before long he was petting them, even combing their hair. 

"The dogs made me feel happy," Andrew says.

When a child is sick, a mother's heart suffers.

Pet therapy is not only for the patient. It's for those who love them.

Andrew's mother, grandmother and uncle watched with smiles as Andrew played with Sissi and Reggi.

"It's good to see your kid smile when you know that they're in pain and there's nothing else you can do for them," says Andrew's mom, Alexis Campbell-Edmonds.

"Gave me a sense of hope that he's not just going to be miserable laying there, that it's going to bring joy to him, even though nothing else is right now," she says as tears well up in her eyes.

How does it work, this incredible effect the animals have on us?

No one actually knows.

They just know what happens when a furry ball of love and comfort comes into the room.

"Those good hormones, good endorphins, kick in and so, physiologically, there's a chain reaction of things that happen in the body that really promote the healing and promote good health and wellbeing," says Tucson Medical Center Pet Therapy Coordinator Monica Frisbie-Garcia.

The therapists call them "happy hormones."

Blood pressure drops.  Stress and anxiety melt away.

But what about the dogs?

Anyone who knows Yorkshire terriers knows they can be energetic and noisy, but not here.  Not in the hospital.

"It's like they know that the reason they're here is to being some calmness and some happiness," says their owner Deborah Collins.

The Certified Therapy Dogs and their owners are all volunteers.

We're told that sometimes a child hasn't smiled or even spoken in the hospital until a dog walks in and changes everything.

To learn more about therapy dogs, including how to become a volunteer, click here

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