Caring Canines: Hospital Dogs Helping Humans

Some of the best hospitals in the country are going to the dogs, but in a good way.

Man's best friend is helping patients and their families feel better, one slobbery kiss at a time.

They are furry, they are friendly, and these pups are on a mission.

Each week Sunday, a golden-doodle, visits this Mayo Clinic radiation oncology waiting room. His job is to cheer up everyone he meets.

Diane Parisi's husband is having spinal surgery. She was feeling sad and nervous before Sunday walked in.

"He just turned my, it's almost cliché, but he turned my frown to a smile," says Diane Parisi.

Sunday's owner, Kristi Leonard, says her pooch lifts moods every day.

"Literally, the way peoples' faces light up,” says Kristi Leonard with Service Chair and The Caring Canines Program at the Mayo Clinic in Florida. “If they're just walking along and they see the dog, and it's just, ah, like a breath of fresh air."

But dogs don't just make people feel better, they also have health benefits.

Interacting with man's best friend can lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, and improve lung function. One study showed heart attack patients with dogs were eight-times more likely to be alive a year later.

"It really changes the whole feeling of an exam room when the dogs come in," says Nancy Skaran the Administrator of the Caring Canines Program at Mayo Clinic, Florida.

They also visit patients and their families. Her owner takes time off work to volunteer.

"It's just the most incredible feeling I've ever had," says Linda Gibson a volunteer with The Caring Canines Program.

They take their work seriously, but when the day's done, even the mightiest mutts get, well dog tired.

The Caring Canines Program at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, is run by volunteers.

They currently have 18 dogs and owners that participate.

To qualify, the dogs have to be trained, evaluated, and registered with a national organization called Pet Partners. The pups must also be up to date on their shots.

Caring Canines: Hospital Dogs Helping Humans
REPORT #2046

BACKGROUND: Man's best friend is more than just a pet, they become family. Those of us who own a pet are usually happier and healthier than those who do not. Dogs are loyal, affectionate, and smart, and they provide us with a sense of companionship. Often times we view them as our protection, and we can train them to guard us if we ever need saving. (Source:

BENEFITS OF OWNING A DOG: A dog can do more than fill a person with joy, they can improve fitness levels. Walking a dog daily can relieve stress and provide people with opportunities to meet fellow dog owners. As far as a person's health, a dog owner a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, reduced blood pressure, anxiety levels may drop, and they have a smaller chance of becoming ill. Dogs provide endless love to their owners, leaving them with a sense of emotional well-being. (Source: and

THE CARING CANINES PROGRAM: The Caring Canines Program's mission is to bring happiness and comfort to those in need. Their passion for dogs has led them to gather volunteers to spread the love from the dogs to others. They believe it is imperative to have the emotional support when in a time of crisis or healing. The Caring Canines Program serves to assisted living centers and nursing homes, hospitals, hospice care, and libraries. Volunteer dogs are required to be tested under the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen certification and must have their shots up to date.

For More Information, Contact:

Kristin Leonard
Service Chair
The Caring Canines Program
Mayo Clinic, Florida
(904) 953-6737

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