Meet Charlie: Lourdes’ New Therapy Dog
Friday, May 15, 2009
Burlington County Hospital Utilizes New Service on Behavioral Health Units
Willingboro -- Over the past several months patients, visitors and staff have seen him as he happily reports to duty on one of the Behavioral Health Units at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County. With a happy spring in his step and cheerfully greeting everyone he encounters, Charlie is one of the hospital's newest volunteers and the first of the four-footed variety.
Charlie, a four-year old Boston Terrier, came to hospital through an encounter by his owner Lori Clark, and Ceil VanEmberg, director of volunteer services at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County.
Lori and Charlie, who is certified by Therapy Dog International, regularly visit the residents of local nursing homes. Anticipating that one of the residents might need hospitalization at some point, Lori reached out to Lourdes to establish a relationship to make hospital visits possible when and if the time came.
Little did she know, Ceil and Karen Clarke, RN, Director of Behavioral Health Services, had been tossing around the idea of establishing a pet therapy program for several years. The three of them met and worked out details and a new service was born. Lori and Charlie now visit about once a week , with good results.
"The patients really seem to enjoy the visit," said Lori. "Charlie has such a good temperament and has a way of helping patients to relax and forget their problems for a while."
Karen Clarke, agrees that Charlie has been a welcome addition. "We recently had a patient that was withdrawn for days. Once Charlie was brought in, the patient responded almost immediately to the Charlie's affection. After that, the patient started to respond to other forms of therapy as well. It was a real breakthrough." Jack Heininger, a certified addictions counselor on the unit adds: "He is a welcome addition to the therapeutic community that we provide."