The Nurturing Power of Pets


Three times per month, volunteers from Furry Friends Pet Therapy Services bring their dogs to the Forever Young Zone to visit with patients and their families. “Many kids miss being with their pets at home. This is a way for them to reconnect with animals. It can also be calming to one patient and fun or exciting to another,” explains Jacob Lore, Child Life Specialist at Packard Children’s.

The Pet Assisted Therapy Program was established when Judy Kell, veterinary technician and founder of Furry Friends, approached the hospital with the idea that ill children can benefit from pet visits. Kell learned the value of pet therapy when her nine-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer and her daughter’s cat was one of very few things that lifted her spirit as she battled her illness.

Vickie Miyaoka is one of the 30 Furry Friends volunteers who regularly visit Packard Children’s. “You see the joy and happiness the dogs bring to the kids during the visit. They aren’t focused on their treatment or being in a hospital, but living in the moment,” explains Miyaoka. “We begin as volunteers thinking that we are the ones giving, but we’re actually on the receiving end.”