Golden Retriever is a CARE Project dog who visits the bedside of adult patients
When I first met Landon in UC Davis Health’s North Addition Office Building lobby recently, he was already locked in and laser focused.
The two-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever had just arrived for his first day on the job with The CARE (Creativity, Amenities, Relaxation, Exploration) Project, a program dedicated to a holistic approach to health care — treating the mind, body and spirit.
But before Landon could visit any patients, he needed to pass one final, 10-step test.
Landon not only passed, he also aced his “Canine Good Citizens Test” with flying colors and a cheerful, wagging tail.
Toni Woods is the owner of Spot on Dog Training and a volunteer with The CARE Project. Woods was on hand to administer Landon’s evaluation. First, she greeted his owner, Patt Tull, testing to see if Landon had any adverse reactions to another human approaching his human.
Landon obediently stood by. Woods then emulated a patient and rubbed Landon’s ears, chin, chest, belly and under his paws to check if any spots bothered him. Tull then walked Landon down the hall and back, through a crowd of chattering employees, past someone deliberately opening and dropping an umbrella and even past a stuffed dog.
The stuffed dog received inquisitive sniffs, but nothing more.
In the final step, Tull left Landon solo, going completely out of sight for three minutes. Landon seized the opportunity to rest his paws, lying on the cool lobby floor.
And just like that, he became The CARE Project’s newest Canine CARE member, which includes six dogs.
Canine CARE: Helping hospitalized patients heal
The CARE Project, in addition to providing Reiki, art therapy and recreational activities, facilitates dog visits for adults at their bedsides during their recovery process. Canine CARE visits help patients cope with hospitalization and provide motivation to engage in treatment. This program includes Certified Therapy Dogs and handlers, both of whom have been screened by UC Davis Health’s Volunteer Services and evaluated to be in the hospital setting.
Landon is specially trained to support adult patients.
“When we bring a therapy dog to the bedside, our patients are often moved to tears at just the sight of them,” said Katie Lorain, creative arts and recreation therapy manager. “Seeing the dog reminds them of their life beyond these walls both physical and emotional. This is an important realization to have when adjusting to a ‘new normal’ such as an illness or injury. And in that moment, they can use the dog to cope and safely connect to on a deeper level. This is the humanistic side of health care, recognizing the humanity and individuality of our patients and reinforcing what is important to them outside of the hospital walls.”
After his evaluation, I tailed (pun very much intended) Landon as he got right to work, visiting six adult patients. During these bedside visits, each patient’s demeanor immediately lifted. And it didn’t stop at the six patients on the visit schedule. Staff at each level also stopped to say hello.
“Seeing [Landon] just made my entire day,” said a discharged patient.
Before we departed, I asked Landon for his thoughts about his first day. Tull guessed he would probably say the test was easy and that he was eager to visit patients.
He did answer one key question on his own, though, and he made his answer very clear.
“Landon, tell me: Who’s a good boy?” I asked.
Landon swished his tail back and forth excitedly.
“He’s thrilled to be a part of the UC Davis Health team,” Tull interpreted.