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Caring Canines: Hospital dogs helping humans

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Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 3:36 pm | Updated: 11:51 am, Wed Nov 20, 2013.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Some of the best hospitals in the country are going to the dogs – but it’s a good thing. Man’s best friend is helping patients and their families feel better and get well sooner.

They are furry. They are friendly. And these pups are on a mission!

Each week, Sunday – a golden-doodle – visits this Mayo Clinic Radiation Oncology waiting room. His job is to cheer up everyone he meets.

Diane Parisi’s husband is having spinal surgery. She was feeling sad and nervous before Sunday walked in.

“He just turned my, it’s almost cliché, but he turned my frown to a smile,” Diane Parisi told Ivanhoe

Sunday’s owner, Kristi Leonard, says her pooch lifts moods every day.

“Literally, the way peoples’ faces light up. If they’re just walking along and they see the dog, and it’s just like a breath of fresh air,” Kristi Leonard, Service Chair of the Caring Canines Program at Mayo Clinic, Florida, told Ivanhoe.

Dogs don’t just make people feel better – they also have health benefits.

Interacting with man’s best friend can lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, and improve lung function. One study showed heart attack patients with dogs were eight-times more likely to be alive a year later.

“It really changes the whole feeling of an exam room when the dogs come in,” Nancy Skaran, Administrator of the Caring Canines Program at Mayo Clinic, Florida, told Ivanhoe.

Zoe also visits patients and their families. Her owner takes time off work to volunteer.

“It’s just the most incredible feeling I’ve ever had,” Linda Gibson, told Ivanhoe.

They take their work seriously, but when the day’s done even the mightiest mutts get, well, dog tired.

The Caring Canines Program at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville is run by volunteers. They currently have 18 dogs and owners that participate.

To qualify, the dogs have to be trained, evaluated, and registered with Pet Partners, a national organization and must also be up to date on their shots.

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