Therapy animals at the Bismarck Cancer Center help patients relieve stress

Published: Feb. 25, 2023 at 10:51 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Bismarck Cancer Center patients have access to a couple of therapy animals who can help relieve some stress.

Hope comes in all shapes and sizes, and for some patients, it arrives in the form of Max! Max is a four-legged fluff ball that brings patients happiness at Bismarck Cancer Center.

”When we got him, I knew he would make a great pet therapy dog. And so, I took them through the training at PetSmart for puppy, intermediate and advanced classes, and then it’s through the advanced class is where they earn their Canine Good Citizen certification. And then once we receive that I knew I also wanted him to be able to go to public places,” said Mary Dunn, handler.

His handler got him into pet therapy when he was four months old, and he’s been doing it for seven years.

“Taking a little time out of their day to pet them and visit with the handlers and just see all the health benefits that it brings to them,” said Andrea Doerr Greff, volunteer coordinator.

She says it helps with mental health issues like reducing depression and anxiety and helps calm down the body.

”After I witnessed pet therapy, the impact it brought on people, it really touched my heart. Just to see people light up going into a hospital to visit patients. They never expect to get a four-legged furry friend visitor, so people just light up,” said Dunn.

There are five dogs that come through the center, and they bring a sense of nostalgia to some patients.

“So many people grew up with animals, and so, they were used to having pets either on the farm or pets of their own at their own homes. And who doesn’t miss their furry friend when they’re sick or not feeling well,” said Dunn.

Max gives just as much joy to staff as he does to patients. The program was started in November 2022.

Max attends schools and libraries as well as the Bismarck Cancer Center.