Volunteers Needed for New Pet Therapy Program

Southampton Hospital has launched a new pet therapy program to enhance patient care. The program is run by Angel on a Leash, an organization that promotes the role of the human-animal bond in enhancing human health and quality of life. Dogs and their handlers are certified through Pet Partners, a nonprofit organization that trains animals and handlers for assisted therapy programs nationwide.  

Volunteer Jane May brought the program to Southampton Hospital after seeing first-hand the positive impact that pet therapy can have on patients. Ms. May and her Golden Retriever Poodle mix, Dipsy Doodle, volunteer at a hospital in New York. “I live on the East End part time and thought we could help fill a void here,” she said, “so I worked closely with Southampton Hospital staff to make it happen.” 

To recruit additional volunteers, Southampton Hospital, Angel on a Leash, and Pet Partners are co-hosting a handler-only, full day workshop on Saturday, May 31st. This is the first step to becoming a certified pet therapy team. The cost is $100, which includes a handbook, lunch, handouts, snacks, and beverages. Pre-registration and payment is required. Interested volunteers should contact Greer Griffith of Angel on a Leash at (646) 259-3811 or greer@angelonaleash.org. 

Ms. May and Dipsy Doodle now visit Southampton Hospital patients once a week. “Doctor Dipsy” is uniformed in a special vest embroidered with the hospital’s logo, custom-made as a donation from Rose Diaz of Stitch in Southampton. Patient visits are coordinated with the nursing staff on medical-surgical and telemetry floors, pre-identifying patients for a visit with the therapy dog team. “The patients really benefit from a visit with Dipsy,” says Southampton Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Pat Darcey, “and our staff members love her too!”  

“Spending time with animals has been shown to improve physical health such as lowering blood pressure and diminishing the perception of pain, but animals can also benefit a patient’s mental health by lessening depression, lowering anxiety, and providing a general sense of comfort,” says Southampton Hospital Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Fredric Weinbaum. “I know I always feel rejuvenated after a visit with Dipsy!”

(l. to r.) Mary Hogarty, Palliative Care Chaplain, Southampton Hospital; Pat Darcey, RN, MS, Vice President for Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Southampton Hospital, Jane May, Pet Therapy Volunteer with Dispy Doodle, Pet Therapy Dog; Jane Edelman, RN, OCN, Palliative Care Clinical Coordinator, Southampton Hospital; and Greer Griffith, Director of Programs, Angel on a Leash.