Welcome Waggers Return to Chesapeake Regional Medical Center
CHESAPEAKE, Va. – After a three-year hiatus due to heightened COVID protocols, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center is once again hosting volunteer handlers and their certified therapy dogs, known as Welcome Waggers. The therapy dog teams are now available to provide companionship and help improve the emotional wellbeing of people throughout the hospital.
“Our beloved Welcome Waggers provide comfort and enjoyment to patients, their family members and our staff,” says Anne Crow, Director of Volunteer Services. “They can be a great benefit to patients during hospitalization because a visit with a caring 4-legged friend helps create a happy, healing environment and reduces anxiety and fatigue. Our patients and staff have been asking for these sweet dogs to return and we are thrilled to welcome them back!”
In March of 2020, the program was halted when the COVID-19 pandemic began. With restricted visitation policies, the dogs haven’t been allowed in patient rooms for over three years. Their gradual return began in May of 2022 when dogs were invited back for visits in the main lobby.
Chesapeake Regional has enjoyed the innovative benefits of pet therapy for nearly 20 years. Volunteers and their dogs, certified by Therapy Dogs International, make short, in-room visits to patients who would benefit from their company. Consult requests are simply entered into a patient’s electronic medical record. The dogs also visit nursing stations and waiting areas. Before visiting the hospital, Welcome Waggers are required to meet strict sanitation and safety measures.
There are currently 10 pet therapy teams available to comfort those in need every day of the week. Patients with a history of aggression, those who are acutely psychotic or on isolation protocols due to a communicable disease are not eligible for pet therapy.
Community members interested in volunteering as a pet therapy team are encouraged to complete this application. For more information, call 757-312-6109.