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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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Animal assisted therapy comes to South Texas

Therapy dog visits with patient

Veteran Wade Chism laughs and interacts with Animal Assisted Therapy dog, Poppy. Photo by Robin Risemas, Office of Public Affairs.

By Robin Risemas, Office of Public Affairs
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Animal Assisted Therapy comes to the South Texas Veterans Health Care System      

Recently, some patients in the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) received a visit from a very special guest.

Therapy Animals of San Antonio brought Poppy, a 2-year-old, female pug, to visit some of the patients, and she was very well received. 

As STVHCS embraces the philosophy of Patient Centered Care, called “Veteran Centered Care” here, one of the components is 
“Complimentary Therapies”.  These therapies could encompass many different things, from art to massage to aromatherapy to pet therapy, anything to help the Veteran relax and release some of the anxiety that can come from being an inpatient. Poppy more than accomplished that task during her visit.

One Veteran, Mr. Wade Chism, was especially pleased.  While Mr. Chism can’t speak, his face showed all the joy that Poppy brought him.  His nurse indicated that he communicates with his hands, and when asked if he was enjoying his time with Poppy, Mr. Chism responded with his hands “yes”.  For Mr. Chism, Poppy brought a bit of home to him while an inpatient because he said she made him think of his two dogs at home.  This seemed to be a common theme.

The focus of complimentary therapies is not only the patient, but the entire family, and on this day, you could see that Poppy helped relieve some of their anxiety as well. Many families and Veterans began to talk of their pets at home and, as with Mr. Chism, bringing a bit of home to the hospital can make you feel better.  Mr. Augustin Ramirez said Poppy was “nice and warm and I like the curl of her tail.” He also said that Poppy “reminds me of my Boston Terrier at home.”

Science is still unclear on why pet therapy is so effective.  Looking around the rooms when Poppy came to visit it was clear that the full and undivided attention Poppy gave the Veterans brightened their day.  Poppy was popular!

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