Woman standing with dog.
Submitted by Brandi Devries, Communications and Public Affairs Specialist

The St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program team were welcomed by clinic visitors with open arms and smiling faces as the volunteers -- both human and furry -- arrived to soothe nerves and provide comfort.

For adults and children alike, receiving an immunization can be a stressful experience. Therapy dogs can help reduce these feelings by offering affection and emotional support to those who are receiving their immunizations. 

With this purpose in mind, all paws were on deck when the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program team visited clinic attendees at the Abbotsford COVID-19 immunization clinic at Ag-Rec Centre. 

(Photo) Jackie and therapy dog Kona.

Upon arrival, therapy dogs Willow and Kona set off to work with a wag of their tails, eager to brighten the days of visitors by turning fears into smiles. 

Therapy dog owners are proud of their dogs' positive impact on others.

"All ages, all sizes -- when your nerves are rattled, your nerves are rattled," says Barbara, a volunteer from St. John Therapy Dog Program and therapy dog owner. 

Her furry partner-in-action, Sophie met with clinic visitors as requested, providing comfort with her calming and empathetic demeanour. 

(Photo) Roy and therapy dog Jester.

Therapy dog Jester's approach to care delivery was to hop onto a chair next to a clinic visitor and place his head on their legs, letting them pet him as they received their immunization. He even helped soothe one child with a comforting lick on the cheek. The child was delighted and didn't take notice of the immunization taking place.  

"The St. John's Therapy Dogs have been a welcome addition to the Ag-Rec COVID-19 Testing and Immunization Centre Clinic team. I have noticed that stress and tension always seem to decrease when they are on site. We could have a room full of anxious children but with one lap around the space from one of our furry friends and the entire room lightens up," says Jo Demet, Patient Care Coordinator. 

"What a positive difference the therapy dogs made to the vaccination experience, not only for the children, but also for the staff and all the citizens we vaccinated," says Liz Findlay, Director of Regional Specialized Populations Requiring Immunization. 

(Photo) Terri and therapy dog Willow.

For updated information on our current COVID-19 immunization clinics, including hours of operation, please visit fraserhealth.ca/vax.

Anyone five years of age and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and may register on the Get Vaccinated provincial system to be notified of when to book an appointment.

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