Living with cancer and Caring Canines

Rochester, Minnesota - Her name is Hanna. She is a soft-coated Wheaten Terrier. Her birthday is November 26, 2011, and she loves romping with pals, meeting new friends and long walks. She will greet you with her friendly, warm eyes and a wag of her tail.

Hanna is part of Caring Canines, a new program at Mayo Clinic that offers pet-assisted therapy to patients, family and staff every Wednesday from 1-2 p.m. in the Mayo Clinic Cancer Education Center on the lobby level of the Gonda Building in Rochester, Minnesota.

Caring Canines is part of the Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic. Dogs and their trainers are specially trained and certified to work in a health-care environment. The nationally accredited organization that educates and evaluates the dogs and their trainers is Pet Partners.

Caring Canines therapy dogs can provide a warm and positive therapeutic interaction that is focused on improving the mental, emotional, social and physical health of a person. Families also benefit from the social interaction, with a break from the stress of caregiving. Smiles, cuddling and tail wagging are all part of the experience. Pet-assisted therapy can provide people with a unique experience that is like none other in health care.

Research has shown that pet-facilitated therapy provides the following benefits:

  • Improvement in memory, communication and increased social interaction.
  • Increased physical exercise, sensory stimulation, decreased blood pressure and reduction in pain.
  • Emotional support through positive responses from unconditional love and acceptance, with a decrease in feelings of loneliness and anxiety.

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