Pet therapy: Edmonton hospital looking for more four-legged volunteers

Click to play video: 'Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital looking for dog-handler volunteers'
Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital looking for dog-handler volunteers
The Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital is hoping to recruit more therapy pets to visit patients and help brighten their day. Quinn Ohler tells us why it's such an important part of their rehab. – Mar 6, 2024

Patients and staff at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton know firsthand how beneficial the pet therapy program there can be. Those in charge say they want to expand it to help even more people.

“Patients spend a long time in rehab,” said Daryl Richel, the volunteer coordinator at the hospital. “It gives them a chance to relax and get out of their heads a little bit.”

The Glenrose is looking for up to 10 more dog-handler teams to volunteer an hour of their time a week.

A new program that started in January means dogs don’t have to be fully certified, but they do need a behavioral assessment.

Mini schnauzer Ziggy on the job with his handler Barb Daley. Global News

“The process to get pets interacting with patients is easier than it’s ever been,” Richel said.

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“It keeps them away from looking at the calendar, looking at the watch… looking at the next appointment.”

Click to play video: 'Therapy dogs at Health Sciences Centre'
Therapy dogs at Health Sciences Centre

No one understands that more than volunteer Barb Daley.

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She started training her mini schnauzer, Ziggy, to become a certified therapy dog seven years ago when she was in a motorcycle crash.

Daley lost her leg in the accident and ended up as a patient at the Glenrose.

Ziggy the 8-year-old mini schnauzer is a certified therapy pet with St. John’s Ambulance. Global News

“Ziggy came to visit and I thought: ‘Wouldn’t this be a nice thing to share?'” she said. “It became apparent to me that there are gaps in the patients’ day where they had perhaps too much time to think.”

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Every Tuesday evening, after the physiotherapy is done, puppy therapy with Ziggy can begin.

“When I brush him up and say: ‘You’re a therapy dog today,’ he really perks up,” Daley said.

Daley said it allows her to connect with patients.

“It gives them a chance to ask questions about my experience as an amputee,” she said. “Each visit there’s always a highlight. There’s always one interaction that stands out from the rest.”

Click to play video: '‘It’s wonderful’: Therapy dogs, owners mark 10 years of serving Calgary'
‘It’s wonderful’: Therapy dogs, owners mark 10 years of serving Calgary

Trudy Dieno has been a patient at the Glenrose for the past two months. She said outside distractions of any kind are always welcome.

“I wait for Ziggy,” she said. “He always brightens my evening when he stops by.”

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Patient Justin Carter also said that Ziggy brightens his day.

“(It) reminds me that I’m going to get my own puppy when I get home,” said Carter, adding that he may even train his own pup to be a therapy dog.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer is invited to contact Daryl Richel at or (780) 735-7986 (extension 1).

Click to play video: 'New therapy dog for Canucks Place Children’s Hospice'
New therapy dog for Canucks Place Children’s Hospice

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