St. John Ambulance’s Therapy Dog Program takes a volunteer and their dog into hospitals, seniors' residences or nursing homes on a weekly basis. Through petting, affection, and regular visitation, many people benefit both physically and emotionally from the unconditional love of a dog, while also providing the volunteer with a unique and rewarding volunteer experience.
The program continues to grow, boasting more than 3,500 volunteer dog teams providing over 275,000 hours of their time visiting hospitals, retirement residences, care facilities, schools and universities. The friendly attention and acceptance of these four-legged volunteers are always greatly appreciated.
Therapy dog services are provided in a wide range of community settings such as:
- Seniors residences and care facilities
- Schools, universities and colleges
- Community centres and libraries
The Therapy Dog program provides opportunities for individuals to:
- Talk with the volunteer and the dog
- Feel, touch, pet and cuddle the dog
- Receive unconditional love from the dog
- Carry-out or practice an activity in the presence of the dog
The program offers many benefits, improving quality of lives. Some of the reported benefits include:
- Greater social engagement with individuals/residents talking more, participating more in activities, and smiling more
- Stress relief and distraction from pain
- Comfort and calming
The program varies across Canada based on community need and the availability of volunteers. Therapy dogs routinely offer comfort and companionship in senior residences and care facilities. In hospitals, they may be providing relief and distraction for patients awaiting cancer treatments.