UHC's Pet Therapy Program Welcomes BHS Alum Megan Griffith and Her Dog, Gordon, to the Team

By Trina Runner on November 27, 2019 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Who has four paws, can provide comfort, and aid in a number of mental and physical health concerns? If Gordon, a 10-year-old Beagle Mix owned by Megan Griffith, had opposable thumbs, he would hold them up and say, “This guy.”  Newly certified as a therapy pet at United Hospital Center, Gordon and Megan are excited to volunteer with patients, staff and visitors.
 
“I had been looking for ways to give back to my community,” said BHS Alum Griffith, who graduated from WVU in 2013 with an International Relations degree. “When I asked for suggestions on Facebook, there were many good ideas, but volunteering at UHC really grabbed my attention.”
 
Although she originally wanted to volunteer as a cuddler for newborn babies, she found out the staff was not accepting volunteers in that area.  After reviewing areas of need, pet therapy came up.  A relatively new opportunity for volunteers at United Hospital Center, the program has proven to be very successful in easing depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and diminishing pain among those who encounter the animals.
 
Pet Therapy can also be used to increase motor skills, provide comfort when a patient is experiencing fear, and even helping cardiovascular health.  As Griffith further explored the benefits of pet therapy, she knew her Gordon was a perfect fit.  She was accepted as a volunteer at UHC and she and Gordon began the certification process through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD), which required observations to make sure Gordon fit the need.  The pair visited several nursing homes and pet stores and will begin volunteering soon.
 
For those who would like to interact with the pets at UHC, Volunteer Services has a list of approved handlers and pets.  Although there are a few areas of the hospital that do not allow animals, most are welcoming after physician approval.  Pets must be healthy and up-to-date on vaccines and handlers are given visitation schedules to determine the best available shift for visiting.  
 
“The training process was easy and fun,” said Griffith. “It has given us a unique way to serve the community and improve the quality of life for the patients and we can’t wait to get our badges and begin volunteering soon.”


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