Faces of the QEH – Evie, Bucko and Chance

“Therapy dogs bring joy to patients visiting the QEH Emergency Room”

There are now three beautiful Shih Tzus that can be found at the QEH Emergency Room twice a week: Evie, Bucko and Chance. Thanks to an idea hatched in 2015 between Joan Coffin, QEH Social Worker and Mike MacDonald, QEH Emergency Room Nurse Manager, a collaboration with Therapeutic Paws of Canada, PEI chapter, has resulted in therapy dogs bringing comfort to patients waiting in the QEH ER. After the completion of a successful pilot program in 2016, the program is now permanently in place.

When asked what temperament is required for the therapy dogs, Earla Moore, Bucko and Evie’s handler, explains, “They have to be calm, they can’t jump on people and they have to like people and enjoy meeting new people.” The animals and their handlers go through a rigorous program and evaluation process that runs from six months to a year in order to be approved as a therapy dog for adults. There is an additional certification required for the dogs to interact with children, which all three animals have been approved for.

Both Earla and Wendy Bonnell know that their dogs enjoy their job. “When I am getting ready to take one of the dogs for a visit to the ER and they see me putting on my red Therapeutic Paws shirt, they know. Bucko and Evie line up and when only one gets to go the other is kind of sad,” says Earla. “When they get to the ER they are just bursting to get in the door.”  

The dogs bring a huge sense of fulfillment to their owners. Chance’s handler Wendy says, “I’m proud of Chance after we visit patients at the QEH ER. He behaves so well and brings joy to those that meet him.

Joan Coffin has witnessed first-hand the positive impact the dogs have had on the patients, both young and old, that visit the QEH ER. “People are not just sitting there waiting but instead are talking with each other while they engage with the animals,” says Joan. “I think it reduces anxiety. I know for children especially it takes away a lot of their fears and it provides companionship. For elderly patients the animals can take their minds off of a distressing situation and bring them to a happier time in life. There is a lot of reminiscing about pets from years ago.”