Palomar Paws Pet Therapy
Healing and comfort don’t always come with a medical degree. Sometimes the tranquility and quiet joy a dog visit brings to a patient is the best prescription.
Palomar Paws, formerly known as Rx Pets, is a volunteer program designed to bring a little more TLC into the hospital setting as patients look forward to the four-footed visitors with as much anticipation as the two-footed kinds.
There are currently 30 dogs volunteering with Palomar Paws Program. Cathy Mayer, a professional dog trainer and volunteer coordinator for the program, hopes to have 60 dogs enrolled in the hospital visitation program.
When patients are admitted into the hospital, they are asked as part of the registration process, if they would like to have dog visitations.
Palomar Paws doesn’t just help the patients, but it also assists dog owners who want their own pet to be a therapy dog.
Mayer takes potential therapy dogs through a controlled evaluation at the hospital and if the dog passes the test, she helps the dog get certified with one of two national groups – Therapy Dogs International or Love on a Leash.
Volunteer Carol Orlando knows first-hand the joy and comfort her dog Button brings to patients. “The difference the dog makes is like night and day. We walk in and (the patient) isn’t smiling or is looking sad. But as soon as they see Button, they’d light up. Pretty soon they’re telling me their own pet experience,” Carol says. “It’s so rewarding. And from the look on Button’s face, she loves it, too.”
To read about a patient's experience with pet therapy, click here
Palomar Health Exclusive: "Gus" the Therapy Dog Speaks
Gus is a 13-year-old Golden Retriever-Yellow Lab mix (we think) who was rescued by Cathy Mayer, who runs the Palomar Paws pet therapy program. Cathy says Gus easily took to being a therapy dog once he realized the payoff.
Though he is a dog of few words and can be modest, Gus told his story for the first time anywhere, in this exclusive interview.
Q: How long have you been a therapy dog at Palomar Health?
I started out with the original Rx pet program when I was 2 only years old. It was merely a short 11 years ago. Mom rescued me when I was about 15 months old. Thank God for second chances!!
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
The people of course—and the butt scratches are pretty close second! The people part is seeing patients and employees smiling and relaxing when I walk in the room. It never gets old watching people’s eyes light up when I stick my nose under the curtain and mom asks if they’d like a Palomar paws dog visit. It’s just what we do at Palomar. We love to comfort our patients.
Q: How do you go about making patients feel more relaxed – what’s your secret?
My eyes for sure. They worked for me the day mom saw me at the Humane Society and are still working today. But I love to put my chin on the bed so patients can pet me. It’s a win-win – it makes them feel good – and I definitely love compliments about how handsome I am.
Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned on the job?
Patience and tolerance. I currently work with my mom as a mentor to the newbie dogs and they all just cannot stop kissing up to me. I do love them all secretly but I have to keep my professional appearances.
Q: How does Cathy help you be better at your job?
My mom loves to share me and my sisters so much and her enthusiasm is contagious.
Q: How are things going with your protégé Blue?
Blue’s a good kid and has always been like a lil’ brother to me. He’s a real natural and will surely be a lady pleaser. You should meet his brother Maddux . He and I have been buds for years.
Q: Are you big into Puppachinos? (A special Starbucks whipped cream concoction for the therapy dogs)
Must admit I'm a bit addicted to them. Love the Starbucks gang for taking care of me and my pals for giving our love and time.
I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you, but I guess I need to run now…well trot at my age is more appropriate. Lots of other people to share my creature comforts with. And I can’t wait to stick my mug into one of those Puppachinos!