Pet therapy is powerfully healing - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Pet therapy is powerfully healing

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A San Diego hospital takes center stage on Capitol Hill. Advocates are highlighting Rady Children's Pet Therapy Program as an example of how animal volunteers are helping ease the pain of cancer patients.

Darla Reed and Galant visit dozens of patients at Rady Children's hospital, and they're just one of 33 canine volunteer teams. Fourteen-year-old Spencer Kerr is recovering after his fourth round of chemotherapy, and Galant's visit takes his mind off the pain.

"It's definitely the best part of the day is when a dog comes. They make me feel better," said Spencer Kerr a Leukemia ptient.

The canine volunteers total about 15,000 playroom and bedside visits each year. The program launched in 1990, and it's so popular that the wait list is two years long to become a dog team volunteer.

Studies by "Therapy Dogs International" and "The American Humane Association" found patients were happier, more alert and active, and less anxious when a pooch popped by.

"When you walk into a room, and as you saw, every one of those kids, and their parents too, got a big smile on their face," said dog handler volunteer, Darla Reed.

Reed has seen the benefits. Her son, Grant, battled a brain tumor for years, but a bedside visit from a furry friend cheered him up. Grant got his own canine companion, Apache, who comforted him until he died. The experience inspired Reed to volunteer with Apache, and now Galant who proves why dogs really are a human's best friend.

Dogs involved in the Rady Children's Hospital's Canine Care Program have to complete a physical, pass a monthly temperament test, a loud noise test, and a "pull" test to see how they'd react if a child pulls on their tails.

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