Paw Force: creating smiles

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EAU CLAIRE (WEAU) -- Cancer treatment at a hospital can be a very scary time in someone’s life. Now thanks to a new pet therapy program called the Paw Force at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, patients are being treated to visits from therapy dogs every Tuesday.

The program consists of 8 dogs right now including three golden retrievers and three Labrador retrievers, all of them successfully completed their therapy dog training and are ready to help patients relax and relieve stress

Hannah and Otis had already visited the neuro peds trauma and dialysis units by late Tuesday morning, next came oncology and a visit to Monte Bluske and his wife.

“I come every three weeks for my chemo treatments. Today for example, I’ll be here for an hour, early on it was up to five, six hours,” Bluske explains.

Not a fun way to spend a morning, but for the few minutes Hannah and Otis were visiting,”They completely take my mind off from why I’m here. Animals are always comforting anyway and these two dogs that were in here are really, really nice dogs that like to be petted,” Bluske tells us.

Dog trainer Karen Rude who does her training at Rude Dog University, says enjoying affection is actually a pre-requisite to becoming a successful therapy dog.

“The dogs need to be very affectionate and like petting, the dog has to be very well behaved can't jump on people, we don't want a dog that is overly excited.

Lynn Frank, chief nursing officer at Mayo helped create the Paw Force, and says it's amazing what the dogs do for the spirits of everyone around.

“The dogs are like magnets for visitors and patients a like, they like to get their hands on the dog, pet the dog and say hello we see the wheelchairs veer towards us when we walk down the hall. It's been a great response,” Frank says.

Frank adds the program has been so well received, several other departments are requesting that the dogs come visit. She says she expects the program to expand sometime soon.

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