Pet Pal Volunteers put smiles on the faces of patients and staff at Wexner Medical Center.

Studies have shown that interaction with service animals can benefit patients by helping to lower blood pressure, promote relaxation, relieve anxiety and stress, and improve the patients’ satisfaction with their hospitalization.

At Ohio State, the Pet Pals program promotes the interaction of volunteers and their registered dogs with our Wexner Medical Center patients. It’s a program that has been equally well received by volunteers, patients and staff.

Meet some of our Pet Pal Volunteers and learn how you can become part of this beloved Wexner Medical Center Volunteer program!

Why we are Pet Pal Volunteers

Woman with dog

Bev and Mallory

For 15 years, I have been visiting patients with my dogs. It has been a gift to me to be able to provide a brief respite from the cares, worries and stress that affect patients and family members during a hospitalization. The gentle, non-judgmental presence of a loving animal is something that brings comfort, especially to those who miss their “fur children.” In addition, we are able to provide some stress relief to the staff we encounter as we make our rounds. The demands of their jobs can be very stressful and a few minutes of pet therapy can have a positive impact on their day.

Woman with two dogs

Emily with Tucker and Genie

During 30 years as a staff nurse in an OSU SICU I have witnessed the magic and healing that occurs when dogs visit patients and staff on the unit. My two German Shepherds are certified with Therapy Dog International and they visit the medical center as time allows. I know personally how much benefit comes from pet therapy. I was diagnosed more than two years ago with breast cancer. My own pet therapy team at home did wonders for my healing. To visit and promote healing is a way for me to give back. I feel very blessed to be able to offer this therapy to patients, families and staff.

Woman with dog in lap

Dianne and Maggie

Wexner Medical Center is special to us because of the diverse opportunities to brighten the lives of others. Along with visiting patients, Maggie and I frequently go to the waiting rooms. We recognize that waiting hours for news of a loved one makes for a long, arduous day. A little break to visit with a dog means a lot. It's amazing the number of smiles Maggie can put on faces. Another benefit is time spent with staff. It's fun to see a doctor, nurse or staff member walk through the halls with a little lighter step after they deliver a quick pat on the head for Maggie.

Woman holding dog

Karen and Misti

Misti and I love our visits to the Ross Heart Hospital. If requested, she calmly sits on patients’ laps, snuggles into the chair with them or lays on the bed for the visit. She also likes to visit with the nurses, doctors and staff. Patients we have visited with before are usually waiting for us on what they call “Misti Mondays.” I have seen peace and tranquility come over patients as they pet Misti lovingly. We love being able to provide a little diversion and comfort to patients and their families. Misti is the star of this partnership and I am lucky to be able to see her work her miracles.

Woman kneeling with dog

Kerrie and Dexter

I am very involved in the dog rescue community. My husband and I have fostered and adopted out 20 dogs. Although Dexter is new to being a hospital volunteer, he makes the day brighter for so many staff and patients. Once, someone asked, "Is he therapy for me or my mom (the patient)?" I replied, "Both! Dexter seems to go to the person who needs him the most!" When Dexter visits, he removes a bit of stress, anxiety and sadness as people focus on Dexter rather than why they are in the hospital. We want to make people's day better, but we also want people to learn that a rescue dog can be a therapy dog.

Woman with dog

Sheila and Lizzy

There are so many reasons that I volunteer – to give forward – to pay back – but one of the biggest reasons is seeing the light shine in someone’s eyes when Lizzy comes to visit. Whether for patients, family or staff, she brings comfort, joy and laughter wherever she goes. And, that makes me very happy as well.

Man holding dog in arms

Don and Cory

When I retired I read that the happiest people find a way of “Giving Back” and “Doing Good.” So Cory and I became registered with Therapy Dogs International. We were among the first Pet Pal Volunteers at Ohio State. In 11 years, we have visited more than 1,000 patients and staff. When  people see “Rock Star” Cory, their eyes light up. He shows them a trick or simply lets them pat his head. Cory is 13 now and will be retiring soon. As we sit in the sun together, we will remember how he helped me “Give Back” and “Do Good” for so many. Thanks, Ohio State, for letting us be part of your therapy dog program.

Man seated with dog

Tom and Trevor

When our Pet Pals – Trevor, Ellie and Sugar – figure out they are going to the Ross Heart Hospital, they get so excited. But once they get to the hospital lobby, they settle down and greet visitors calmly and lovingly. They really shine and enjoy greeting the staff on the floors and, most especially, the patients. It’s so beautiful to see them with patients. They will not leave a room until the patient is happy and smiling.  Only then do they tug us to the next room. It’s a rewarding experience for us, our dogs and everyone we meet.

Woman with two dogs

Ingrid with Sugar and Ellie

When our Pet Pals – Trevor, Ellie and Sugar – figure out they are going to the Ross Heart Hospital, they get so excited. But once they get to the hospital lobby, they settle down and greet visitors calmly and lovingly. They really shine and enjoy greeting the staff on the floors and, most especially, the patients. It’s so beautiful to see them with patients. They will not leave a room until the patient is happy and smiling.  Only then do they tug us to the next room. It’s a rewarding experience for us, our dogs and everyone we meet.

How to become a Pet Pal

Volunteers:

  • Complete a community volunteer application
  • Complete a background check (through the Wexner Medical Center)
  • Attend Volunteer Orientation and sign a patient confidentiality form (including HIPAA)
  • Obtain a volunteer ID and volunteer uniform (shirt costs $22 plus tax)

Dogs:

The volunteer and dog will meet with an Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center volunteer coordinator for a personal interview and practice visit.

For more information, email or call 614-293-6294.

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