Skip to main content

CMH pet therapy program returns

Hospital news | Monday, December 5, 2022

Contact: Sarah Bello

Pets of all kinds may train to participate

CMH is pleased to announce the return of its pet therapy program.

“We are very excited to begin scheduling pet therapy teams again and are currently recruiting new teams to go through the certification and onboarding process,” says Laurie Olds, CMH’s volunteer coordinator.

The program was put on a temporary hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The pet therapy program includes volunteers and their pets who visit the hospital and greet caregivers and patients. The pets and handlers are certified and registered through the Pet Partners Program, a national leader in demonstrating and promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted therapy, activities and education.

Pets and handlers prepare for the Pet Partners certification process by going through a series of classes led by a local trainer. The training fees are covered by CMH if the team onboards as volunteers at the hospital.

During the classes, teams learn to complete tasks such as walking past treats or toys without reacting to them.

“It is a challenge for the teams going through these classes as they will practice walking next to and smelling McDonald’s or walking past a ball and not reacting to it,” Olds says. “They will even have people come toward the handler quickly to make sure the pet stays calm in a busy hospital environment.”

A Leonberger dog, named “Gus,” and his handler, Christina, are currently volunteering at CMH through the program. The two will be at CMH on Tuesdays to walk throughout the hospital, visiting different departments and patients. Another team is working through the training and certification process.

“Gus gets excited when he sees his vest and knows he is heading to work at CMH,” Olds says. “It is so rewarding to see how patients and caregivers light up when he is there. Everyone loves him.”

Pet Partners certifies many types of animals. CMH is open to onboarding diverse volunteer teams that have been approved for the program.

If you are interested in volunteering at CMH for the Pet Therapy Program or know someone else who may be, please contact Olds at