(Picture Credit: Isaac Lane Koval/Corbis/VCG / Getty Images)

Since it began last October, the assistance dog project in the pediatric ward at the São João Hospital in the Portuguese city of Porto has been going from strength to strength, providing a much-needed boost for everyone involved, Portugal Resident reports.

Rave Reviews for Assistance Dogs

Zazu, a two-year-old Golden Retriever, and Tika, a three-year-old Labrador Retriever, have benefited both the young patients and the healthcare professionals at the hospital too, “contributing to moments of relaxation and affection”.

“We began to realize that, besides direct benefits for the children, the dogs also helped their families, health professionals, and the entire hospital,” said Catarina Cascais, Zazu’s handler.

Hospital staff have found that even just five minutes of petting one of the therapy dogs can be useful. In fact, it could be as valuable as a 20-minute rest or nap. “It happens to us in the corridors,” Catarina continued. “We meet health professionals who tell us that this is their favorite day of the week.”

Catarina is a volunteer with Ânimas, an organization that trains assistance dogs for people who need them. Once volunteers have trained the canines, the organization gives them free of charge to their new owners.

Nurse Madelena Pacheco described the new initiative as one that’s “been needed for a long time”. It helps children, parents, and healthcare professionals alike.

Hospital Dogs Becoming More Popular

While there have been a number of projects like this one in the US, it’s still quite new for Portugal. But it looks as though other places may come on board soon.

In Canada too, therapy dogs have begun to appear in hospitals. Cambridge Memorial Hospital, in the Ontario city of Cambridge, welcomed Ember last year – the canine supports the staff at the facility, providing comfort and even improving their mental health.

While there will always be hygiene concerns around dogs in hospitals, it looks as if they could well and truly be here to stay.

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