The most accepted terms for this field are Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA). AAT involves working with someone when a specific goal has been identified. If you do this as a volunteer, you will work with a professional who will assist you in selecting goals for different individuals. AAA are those activities designed to strengthen someone's quality of life. Usually performed by volunteers, they are generally "meet and greet" activities.


Meet Cancer Treatment Grant Recipient: Golden Inker

Courageous Canine, Despite Cancer Diagnosis, Continues to Lift Spirits of Trinitas’ Cancer Patients Therapy Dog Visits up to 20 Cancer Patients a Week

Elizabeth, New Jersey -- January 17, 2008 – Inker, the first therapy dog in Trinitas Comprehensive Cancer Center’s (TCCC) Animal Assisted Activities Program, now has
something in common with the Center’s patients.

The nine year-old Golden Retriever is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. After noticing lumps on the dog’s neck last month, Inker’s owner, Pat Dobson, brought him to her veterinarian who recommended immediate chemotherapy treatment for Canine Lymphoma. A common and treatable cancer which occurs in the lymph nodes or other organs, approximately 50 percent of dogs with this condition achieve remission through chemotherapy. Ms. Dobson, a retired school teacher living in Watchung, takes Inker to weekly treatments at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, affiliated with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

“Inker’s cancer was caught in the early stages and I decided that he would have aggressive treatment,” Ms. Dobson said. “Since beginning treatment last month, he is responding to chemotherapy and the lumps are getting smaller. According to his oncologist, his chances for remission are good. Inker is a therapeutic presence for patients. Many patients have told me that their bond with Inker is even stronger knowing that they are both there for each other. I tell patients ‘he’s doing it, you’re doing it, we’ll all make it together.’”

The benefits of pet therapy are increasingly documented in clinical research. In studies at Cambridge and UCLA, researchers concluded that there is a direct correlation between pet interaction and improved overall health. Research demonstrates that patient interaction with animals can reduce stress-induced symptoms and depression, provide distraction from pain and illness, lower blood pressure, and elevate mood.

The Animal Assisted Activities Program was initiated in September, 2005, by Carol Pepe, Director of Social Work, and Lisa Liss, Director of Volunteer Services, at Trinitas Hospital. At the program’s inception, Inker was the only dog providing emotional support to Trinitas Hospital’s patients.

In October 2006, the program began at Trinitas Comprehensive Cancer Center and Inker provided the first patient visit. Since that time, Inker has visited two days a week for one hour a day. Although he is continuing on this schedule, Ms. Dobson will shorten his visits when he is tired. In total, Inker has visited nearly 900 patients.

In addition to Inker, the program currently has two other therapy dogs. A total of six dogs have enhanced the well-being of patients since the program began.

Therapy dogs in the Animal Assisted Activities Program at Trinitas Hospital are tested and certified. Staff members of the “Paws for People” program at St. Hubert Animal Welfare Center in Madison ensure their ease in clinical settings. In addition, the dog’s owner meticulously cleans and bathes each dog the night before a hospital visit.

“Patients look forward to visits by Inker and doctors often include animal visits in their orders,” said Donna Filocamo, LCSW, Manager of Psychosocial Services at TCCC.

“Patients feel more comfortable when they pet the dog, give him treats, and look into his eyes. Inker often offers his paw and gently licks the patient’s hand or cheek. When Inker visits, he not only wears a Trinitas Hospital photo ID badge, but a ‘Cancer Survivor’ T-shirt which gives our patients even more hope,” she added.

The Animal Assisted Activities Program at Trinitas Comprehensive Cancer Center enhances the Center’s growing complementary therapy and support services programs.

April 8, 2008 Update

We were so happy to have Inker be a recipient of our Foundation’s Working Dog Cancer Treatment Grants. His mom, Pat Dobson, has been really struggling with the bills and we were certainly glad to help. It was only a few months ago that we provided this assistance, so it was especially sad to learn that Inker's battle was so quickly lost. This is the note we received from Doreen Rinaldo, one of the people who put together the “Friends of Inker” campaign to help raise funds for his treatment.

"Hello Rochelle, I am very sad to report that Inker passed away today in the loving arms of Pat Dobson. Inker continued to make visits to the patients and employees at Trinitas Cancer center up until one week ago. The cancer just suddenly spread everywhere, and it was time to end his suffering. Thank you so much for the support and encouragement that you bestowed upon Pat and Inker. He was such a special, loving boy, and he will always be remembered . . ."

Carol Pepe, an administrator from Trinitas had this to say: "Inker and Pat brought happiness to 1,073 patients during the years that the Trinitas AAA program has been in existence. Of course there is no way that one can measure the love and comfort that Inker brought to our patients, visitors and staff during his twice-weekly visits. His last two visits were made last week at a time when he was clearly very ill but so happy to be here with the family he loved so much at Trinitas."

Click here to see a special "Bow" to Inker Slide Show from Trinitas Hospital.

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