My heroes: Dogs in Health Care

Red Cross dog collar, Berlin, Germany, 1914-1918
Credit: Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images

As a nurse, I have always had my  health care heroes. Until recently that list  didn’t include canines. But now, dogs top my list of the real heroes who changed healthcare forever.

That’s right, dogs.

I discovered  that a few pioneering  Dogs of Healthcare brought the healing power of the human animal bond into healthcare delivery in unexpected ways .  Their stories  are tales  of  the amazing impact of the human animal bond. And in ways you might not expect.

Jofi, a chow mix, inspired Sigmund Freud . The  father of psychoanalysis often relied on the observations of Jofi to learn more about his patients. Cap ,a sheepdog , was the catalyst for Florence Nightingale  to  learn how to help the wounded in the Crimean War, lessons that endure today, The Red Cross/Mercy dogs of World War 1  not only triaged and rescued the wounded but comforted dying soldiers. Boris Levinson an American child psychiatrist discovered that using an animal in his work with children helped his young patients relax as he worked with  his dog Jingles who became his canine co- therapist.

Today, thousands of therapy animals visit every day in hospitals to bring the special healing of the human animal bond into mainstream healthcare.  Pet Partners, a national therapy animal organization, estimates that each day over 8000 people are touched by a Pet Partners therapy animal team. (PetPartners,2017)

Therapy dogs and service dogs are showing the healing power of the human animal bond as the foundations of the practice of Animal Assisted Therapy becomes  increasingly supported by research and an evolving base of evidence of its benefits.

Our unpaid debt and duty

The strong bond between human and dog creates the dog’s ultimate willingness and dedication to serve us in roles from WarDog to Mercy Dog  to Muse . Throughout history humans reaped the benefit of this unquestioned devotion.

As we continue to choose roles of service for our dogs it is likely our canine companions will continue to impact and impact the delivery of healthcare and service. We hold a sacred  trust with our animal companions to be conscientious guardians of their devotion and trust and good stewards of their service.

We owe it to them to care for them, train them , protect them and consider carefully the sacrifice of our devoted friends before we put them in harms way for our own purposes. We  need  must ask two questions- not just “Can we?” But ” Should we?”

The stories in The  Dogs of Health care series coming soon  here on TDJ Blog will tell of the unsung dog heroes of healthcare illustrate our unpaid debt to them.

We owe it to  heroes to tell their stories.

About the photo

“Marked with the red cross – a universally recognised medical symbol – this collar was worn by a dog trained to locate dead and wounded soldiers during the First World War. Usually under the cover of night such dogs searched the no man’s land between opposing trenches. In Germany, they were known as Sanitäshunde – the Allies called them medical dogs.”
Maker: Kassner, A
Place made: Berlin, Berlin state, Germany
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0