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"
Meet Cancer Treatment Grant Recipient:
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
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
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
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."