If you like dogs, then you know that they have a way of really brightening up any day. They're called "man's best friend" for a reason — it's hard to see a dog and not smile. And it's nearly impossible to name a duo more adorable than kids and dogs. Now, therapy dogs are being used to help kids with medical scans and it's clearly one of the best and most adorable things ever.
Dogs remain a consistently popular pet choice in the United States. A 2007 National Pet Owners Survey found dogs only ranked behind freshwater fish and cats, respectively, as Lone Tree Vet reported.
They're popular animals not just because they're so cute, but because owning one has noticeable benefits. Research is now helping people articulate the new roles that dogs assume in the home. Where they might have once only been popular for working purposes like hunting or herding, dogs are now being recognized for offering different types of support.
At the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (SickKids), dogs are used to help kids with all types of things — including medical scans. Through a use of therapy dogs, the hospital's website noted, "since 2003 the SickKids pet therapy program has demonstrated a positive impact on patient outcomes while helping to preserve the childhood experience during hospitalization."
Therapy dogs accompany their owners to volunteer in places ranging from nursing homes and schools to hospitals and beyond, as outlined by the American Kennel Club. They're different than service dogs, which are trained to help their owners with very specific activities. What therapy dogs do is in the name: they offer people therapy.
For kids in the hospital, it can be a scary time, especially if they have to go through tests. If you've never had an MRI scan, imagine having to lie still inside of a dark, noisy tube. That can be a lot for kids, so the Hospital for Sick Children uses therapy dogs to help them cope.
One patient's mother, Kara Agostino, was thrilled when the hospital offered a dog to help get her daughter into the MRI machine, as the CBC reported.
"I love it," Agostino said, according to the CBC, "She's such a dog lover — the idea of having a dog with her to have her comfortable through a process that's completely unfamiliar to her is brilliant."
Research suggests that dogs can help reduce anxiety and blood pressure. The dogs don't even have to be trained to do anything in particular. According to UCLA Health, people have found that even simply petting an animal can boost the release of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, which all can help improve your mood.
Therapy dogs have been used to help kids outside of hospitals, too. Many libraries offer programs where kids can read to dogs. On its website, Therapy Dogs International noted that many kids who have difficulties reading can become self-conscious when reading aloud to other people.
Dogs help to take away that pressure. With a dog, there's no one judging you if you happen to mess up or stumble over your words.
Not everyone is comfortable around dogs and that's completely fine! But, it's clear that therapy dogs can be really useful for a lot of kids.
After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.