Columbus, OH,
18:58 PM

The power of pets

Our pets are more than just “man’s best friend” — they provide unconditional love to help us through our darkest days.

“When you’re upset and don’t know what’s going on, it’s nice to have a furry friend who wants you to pet them,” says Amy Hanes, volunteer, OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. That furry friend is one of the things that got Amy and her husband, Tom, through the roughest time of their lives.

In September 2014, Tom came to Riverside Methodist for a pinched nerve in his neck. The couple expected a fairly routine treatment, but received a much different diagnosis: Tom had Stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Tom’s physician explained that his cancer was so advanced and aggressive, he needed to take immediate action. Every week for six months, Tom received week-long inpatient treatments of powerful chemotherapy.

“God was in control, and we were at peace with his diagnosis,” says Amy. “But, we still had hope Tom would recover.”

During his treatments, Tom says, “It felt like a family.” And, part of that family included a golden doodle named Charlie, who visited Tom every week with his owner, as part of Love on a Leash.

“Charlie would walk in the room and put his head in your lap and let you pet him. He was so kind,” says Tom.

The Love on a Leash program allows volunteers to share the healing power of their pets with patients — a therapy proven to lower anxiety and stress levels, in addition to other health and wellness benefits for patients, families and associates they visit.

“I’m amazed at our patients’ and visitors’ reactions when the therapy dogs are here,” says Carol Conner, director of volunteer services, Riverside Methodist. “The dogs provide happiness and comfort to every person they interact with.”

Because of Tom and Amy’s love for traveling, they hadn’t been able to get a dog. But, due to his recent diagnosis and the joy it brought him, Amy suggested they get a golden doodle, just like Charlie.

“From the minute we got our golden doodle, Toby, we knew he would be a therapy dog,” says Tom.

Toby needed to be at least one year old, trained, tested and approved through Therapy Dogs International. After approval, they began the process of having Toby approved to be a therapy dog for Love on a Leash.

Fast forward two years since his diagnosis and Tom is not only stronger, but in complete remission and looking forward to sharing Toby’s healing powers with other patients.

“I’m sure the staff have bad days too, but they put that aside and took care of me. I received excellent care. Through Charlie’s visits and having Toby by my side, I am grateful to be in remission and able to give back to other patients,” says Tom.

*Pet therapy programs are also offered at OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital, OhioHealth Doctors Hospital, OhioHealth Grady Memorial Hospital, OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital and OhioHealth Marion General Hospital.