There are many who walk these hallways every day because they care. They want to make a difference in the lives of those who are ill or injured.

Not all of them are medical staff, though. Many are volunteers, and some of them even have four legs!

The reason for the program is simple – these furry, warm, loving creatures provide comfort to and offer a welcome distraction for our patients. Whether it be a nuzzle of a hand, a wagging tail, or a silly grin, therapy dogs are sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

The animal visitation program is one of the most beloved programs within our Volunteer Services. This program allows volunteers and their dogs who have received special training and certification to visit our patients for about an hour each week.

Animal visitation is extremely popular and well received. Our patients often tell us that a four-pawed friend was the highlight of their day.

With their gentle and happy nature, therapy dogs’ visits can be soothing for patients. In fact, studies have shown that visits can reduce anxiety and improve one’s mood. You can learn more about the benefits of how animal visitation programs can help with recovery here.

Some dogs allowed

We know our patients would prefer their own pets to visit, but there are regulations that prevent us from allowing that. Only dogs registered through the volunteer services office can visit patients. But we hope our patients find that our dog visitation program is the next best thing to their own.

To qualify for the program, a dog owner must first register with volunteer services at Rhode Island Hospital, and meet some requirements. Their dogs must be:

Over more than 15 years of the program, we’ve been fortunate to have visits from sweet, loving dogs, who trotted their way into the hearts of patients and staff alike. Some are still with us, while others will be missed, but not forgotten.

We currently have 13 dogs on our roster, visiting patients for an hour a week. It’s a special hour for the dogs, their owners, and the patients whose days are made brighter thanks to these wonderful canine companions.

You can learn more about our animal visitation program here. You can also find out more about volunteering at the hospital.

Volunteer Opportunities

Adrianne Walsh

Adrianne Walsh is the manager of volunteer services at Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital.