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MEDIA RELEASE

CONTACT:
Cindy Ficorelli
Phone: (810) 606-6270
Fax: (810) 606-6279
caficorelli@genesys.org

12/01/2004

Genesys begins formal Pet Therapy service

Editor's note: photos are available or you can send out a photographer
Genesys Volunteers recently introduced a new service for patients: Pet Therapy. The program was developed to help reduce stress and anxiety, provide comfort and a sense of peacefulness, and offer patients a much needed distraction from their illness and injury, explains Mary Jane Grunden, director of Volunteer Services.

Grunden and her yellow lab Gus made their debut on patient care units about one month ago. They are one of a few Pet Therapy teams that will spend time with patients who request a pet visit.

What makes this program at Genesys different from most pet visitation hospital programs is the training required before Genesys will "hire" a dog visitor. The dog and owner must complete 16 weeks of extensive training and pass a "Good Citizens" test before they can be considered for a "position with Genesys as a Pet Therapy volunteer," Grunden explains.

"Our dogs must demonstrate good manners; be comfortable at all times around crowds, noise, distractions, wheelchairs and walkers; and learn to 'leave it,' if they find anything on the floor. They must learn to sit politely for a stranger, walk nicely and calmly on a leash, sit and stand on command, come when called and behave politely at all times. The owner, also trained and certified, never leaves the dog alone or off his leash."

Grunden is "interviewing" additional Pet Therapy candidates who will become official members of the Genesys Volunteers' organization. The dogs and their owners must wear a Genesys ID badge when visiting patients. Genesys plans to offer dog visits every day.

Patients wishing to receive a Pet Therapy visit will place a paw magnet on their bedroom door.

Genesys is one of about 15 hospitals in Michigan to offer a certified Pet Therapy program.

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