Novant Health’s pet therapy volunteers put people at ease while getting vaccinated

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Novant Health’s pet therapy volunteers have a way of putting adults and children at ease when they get a COVID vaccine.

Therapy dogs and their handlers recently comforted patients at the health system’s vaccine clinic located at 196 Hanes Mall Circle in Winston-Salem.

It was a pleasant surprise for Amanda Riesenweber and her three children.

“They were all anxious. We had some tears in the parking lot,” she said.

They were put at ease thanks to volunteer Allie Richardson and her dog Bitzi.

“And that’s such a pleasure and joy for us to see that she has accomplished what she was meant to be,” Richardson said.

Amy Duffner brings her dog Jazzy knowing that there’s something about dogs that brings comfort.

“Right now, we get to do the staff a lot, and they need it just as much as anybody else,” Duffner said.

Mindy Conner says her dog Cordelia absolutely loves it.

“There’s always somebody who’s interesting to talk to, and there’s always somebody that needed us to be there,” Conner said.

“Our volunteers are really skilled at reading the emotions of the patients and just stopping and helping,” Volunteer Coordinator for the Winston-Salem market for Novant Health Paula Christakos said.

It’s an outreach that is personal to Barbara Paul who brings her dog, Tippy.

“When my mother was passing away from her second round of breast cancer, she said, ‘I wish I could see the dog,’ but at that time, they weren’t letting dogs come up in the hospitals, and it just broke my heart,” Paul said. “If I couldn’t do it for mother, I wanted to do it for everybody else.”

Novant Health pet therapy volunteers serve in other areas as well, including in specific hospital units or floors and in the lobby as greeters.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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