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Indianapolis Hospital Celebrates Valentine’s Day With Animal Support Parade

Being a patient in a hospital, or working there, can be stressful. At IU Health North Hospital in Indianapolis, they believe pet therapy can help.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, staffers organized a parade to pay tribute to their pet program.  


“We are doing the dog parade to spread Valentine joy!” said Cathy Huckleberry.


She’s a child life specialist at the hospital and helped organize the annual Animal Support Valentine Dog Parade.


During the parade, eight dogs walked through the hospital accompanied by their handlers. Staffers held up signs with messages of love and distributed small plush dogs to the patients.


The hospital began its pet program over 10 years ago. The dogs and their handlers go through training and once the dogs pass a test, they can start providing emotional support for the patients and staff.


ICU nurse Ashley White says her job can be stressful. And the dogs can be as important to staff as they are to patients.  


“Especially if we are having a rough day they come around and just we sit on the floor with them and play with them just like the patients do,” said White. “And they are a huge emotional relief for us.


And that’s the whole point of the pet program.


“People are so stressed, so tired, so worried. We feel like it’s really important to have something fun and normal," said Huckleberry.


She added that their goal is to make the experience of being at the hospital as normal as possible.


This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.