FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Fort St. John Hospital has introduced a new therapy dog visitation initiative in the Cancer and Hemodialysis units.

RN Joanna Watson works at the Fort St. John Hospital and has had experience while working in the chemotherapy department at the Vancouver Cancer Centre. She saw first hand the benefits of volunteer dog therapy visits, for both the patients and the staff.

Interest was brought forward in the summer of 2019 to introduce animal therapy to the Cancer Clinic in Fort St. John. After researching documented literature on the benefits to patients. The team worked together to get the necessary approvals to start the program with two therapy dogs.

Almost 8-year-old Great Dane, Duvessa and her handler Faye Anstey are part of St. Johns Ambulance. Duvessa is a certified St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog that has been recognized for her help with citizens in the community.

One-year-old Carlos is a Maltese Terrier Cross that comes with handler Dana Lloyd.

The Dogs clearly drew a lot of attention while they were in the hospital as you saw people soften and want to interact with the dogs and smile.

Anstey shared it is nice to see people interact with Duvessa who enjoys getting out and gives a good form of exercise in the winter as Duvessa has a short coat.

Lloyd expressed it gives patients the opportunity to engage as they will often start speaking about their own pets. Lloyd shares her favourite part is seeing people smile.

The hospital recognizes that not everyone can or wants to interact with animals and the clinic has in place a pet visitation policy that promotes the safety of all patients and staff.