BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — A local nonprofit called Hand in Paw brings pet therapy teams together to make a difference around the community.
It can be at a hospital, a school, or a nonprofit.
Casey Schaffer and her dog Bogey visit the UAB Palliative and Comfort Care Unit at UAB as part of Hand in Paw.
Bogey is a golden retriever who loves attention. He also likes naps, but more importantly, Bogey likes to bring comfort to people.
“He was meant to be a therapy dog,” said Casey Schaffer, the Hand in Paw handler for Bogey.
Every Tuesday, Casey and Bogey visit the UAB Palliative and Comfort Care Unit and visit patients.
Bogey sees patients who could really use some joy in their life.
“It picked me up. I’ve been sick for about a year. I been bad for a year, bad shape,” said UAB patient Bobby White.
Bogey visited Bobby White who has stage 4 liver cancer. Bogey isn’t shy. He’ll even get on the patient’s bed and make himself comfortable.
“Puts me at a peace,” said White.
“They’re faces brighten and really the family members too and it’s so sincere and natural. He’s able to bring some comfort to them and he’s changing lives and he makes me so proud,” said Schaffer.
Bogey and Casey are just a small part of the Hand in Paw program.
Dr. Rodney Tucker, the director of UAB Palliative and Comfort Care Unit knows the benefits of this program, which is why he is the co-founder of Anna’s Fund, which gives scholarships to therapy teams like Bogey and Casey.
“I think pets are part of our family. Pets are intuitive, pets are healing. Pets have unconditionally love,” said Rucker.
Bogey’s visits go further than just helping the patients but to the family and the staff.
Registered nurse Alan Emig said his job is rewarding but also can be emotionally draining. Bogey changes that.
“Like walking outside and getting a fresh breath of air. Where you maybe stop a second and have a pause and take a moment to refocus, re-center, head back on the next thing to do,” said Emig.
That’s the effect Bogey has, for people to maybe escape reality for just a moment. It’s a different kind of medicine.
“We really see the magic happen in patients. They might be calmer or may become more responsive to the pet in a very different way than what we’ve seen,” said Dr. Tucker.
“Because the patient just seems more relaxed and when you’re relaxed you generally hurt less,” said Emig.
That’s why Bogey and Casey do what they do.
It’s not science, but it’s something deeper than that, Unconditional love.
Right now in Alabama, there are almost 100 ‘Hand in Paw’ therapy teams.
To learn more about the program or how to become a therapy team, click here.