There is no doubt that Brenda was skeptical when she first heard that therapy dogs would be coming to the radiation oncology department. “I didn’t get it…until I saw it.” Fast forward one year, and Brenda has become a big supporter of pet therapy.
Brenda works as a patient access coordinator in the department. She is responsible for scheduling radiation therapy appointments with patients. In a time when there is much anxiety, uncertainty and fear, Brenda provides guidance, support and a friendly face.
Historically, she was nervous around animals, after being chased by a dog. This negative experience stayed with her. You can understand her reservations about a dog being in the waiting room, interacting with those same patients she supports. She is a naturally compassionate protector.
Now, Brenda tells all her patients about therapy dog days in radiation oncology. “He is the cherry on top…with sprinkles.” She feels that pet therapy adds to the patient experience and that Finn is “integral to the department and patient care.”
On a more personal note, Finn has helped Brenda see animals as beings with spirit and soul. He has helped her to understand why people love animals and how the bond happens between people and animals. When providing care for patients with cancer every day, witnessing the interaction between a therapy dog and a patient can help to bolster our own compassion and empathy. It restores our faith in love, connection and support. For Brenda, it has been an evolution and a revelation. “I believe in and care about having pet therapy… he lights up [the patient’s] world.”
For more information or questions about animal assisted therapy and cancer patients, contact Christina Bach, [email protected]
Healing Paws is a joint project between OncoLink and the Department of Radiation Oncology, Penn Medicine.
Finn, the therapy dog, is a registered therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International (TDI®).
Photos by Christina Bach, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C