The following excerpt is from an article in the Abilene Reporter News (click on link to see full article by Brian Bethel)
For Olivia Brigham, being involved in the pet therapy program at Hendrick Health System has been an “incredible blessing” on both sides of the coin.
Brigham and her dog Gracey, a Chihuahua-dachshund mix, have been part of Hendrick’s program for years.
Brigham was inspired to join the program after she was visited by a therapy dog while undergoing chemotherapy.
“These animals just have a connection, and when they’re in the therapy program, they’re there for a reason,” she said. “It’s because they know how to love.”
After her daughter Ahava’s premature birth almost 10 months ago, Brigham has seen the program from the other side — as the mother of a patient — and considers it no less profound.
“She knew that dog was there to love her and be there for her,” Brigham said, recalling a recent therapy session with her daughter, who still struggles with issues such as muscle tone.
Watching her daughter work with therapy dogs at Hendrick’s Center for Rehabilitation has reinforced for Brigham the importance and profound nature of human-animal connections.
“In her (Ahava’s) case, it’s a very, very neat, encouraging distraction to have a furry little animal there that is helping her use her muscles,” she said. “It wasn’t just someone just sitting there banging a toy or things like that — it was an actual dog that was wagging its tail. And I really feel like they were really communicating in ways even a therapist couldn’t.”
To Brigham, it’s just more evidence of the healing potential of animals, something she’d already seen firsthand in her role as a volunteer.
“There’s no way you can be on any side of this program and not have your life changed,” she said.