LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- A dog is a man's best friend. You've probably heard that before. But did you know that interaction with dogs can actually be beneficial to your health? One local non-profit is using dogs as a form of therapy to provide comfort and companionship to patients who might need a bit of puppy love.
Paws With Love is a non-profit group of volunteer handlers and their therapy dogs out of Lawton. Therapy Dogs promote emotional well-being, healing and overall quality of life.
Laura Carbine is a cancer patient at CCMH going through chemo-therapy. She comes to the cancer center every Thursday. For Laura, getting to see Sunny, one of the therapy dogs puts her in a great mood.
"They're very comforting. I'm a dog person, I love dogs. And Sunny is just really really mellow. And we get along really well. He likes me, and I like him," explained Carbine.
"It's just something about connecting with an animal that has total trust in you and wants your attention. And just wants you to love them and they give unconditional love right back," said Leeann Legako.
Leann Legako is a pediatric neonatal clinical nurse educator for CCMH, but she also is a member volunteer for Paws with Love. She has a therapy dog of her own. She's also an evaluator to help others get their dogs certified.
"I make sure that you're in charge, your dog listens to you, that you're good to your dog. I'm checking you off more than I am the dog," said Legako.
Paws with Love has been coming to CCMH for a while now, and besides the cancer center, they make regular visits to the pediatric ward and the rehab center.
Therapists incorporate the dogs into the therapy to help patients with standing, endurance, range of motion and motivation. the therapy dogs provide something more.
"I've had stroke patients who were very depressed have a visit from a dog and can connect and they remember that they have a dog and they love their dog and they start talking and moving and petting. Whereas just doing the therapy sometimes, it just adds to the therapies that we have," Legako explained.
To become a therapy dog, the dog must be at least one year of age and be able to complete simple obedience commands like stay, down, or sit. They also have to make three public visits and two medical facility visits to see how they do around people.
Paws with Love not only has therapy dogs, but they also offer obedience classes.
"Our goal is to help people not only have a better family pet, so that we have could have a slower turnover of people who are unable to control their pet and have to relinquish them. We would like to help them with that and help them be a better owner so their pet can have a better life," said Legako.
Right now Paws with Love has around 10 certified therapy dogs, but they are always looking for more to join the team.
"If you have a well-mannered friendly dog, we're looking for you. We think we have something special that you'll get so much out of, so much more, I think the patients get a lot, but the handlers, it's something that we get a lot out of," said Legako.
"It's a really really good program. And it's very beneficial to not only to me, but I think to a lot of patients because I'm not the only one who rants and raves over Sunny. I've seen him outside and I get jealous. When he's over in somebody else's lap," said Carbine.
If you think you may have a dog that would be a great therapy dog, you can call and talk to someone with Paws with Love at 699-7007, or to find out more information go to pawswithlovetd.com.
For MedWatch 7, I'm Makenzie Burk.