Hospital Care

Therapy Dogs at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane


Pepper, the three-and-a-half-year-old black and white Border Collie, and Cassidy, a 7-year-old Golden Retriever, have become regular guests at The Prince Charles Hospital’s adult mental health ward and their visits are filled with excitement and joy.

“When Pepper visits, people instantly smile at her. Our patients want to come and pat her. They sit next to her and talk to her,” said Occupational Therapist at The Prince Charles Hospital, Margie Chiavone. 

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Pepper, the small-framed Border Collie is described as an affectionate soul who provides comfort and a sense of calm. Similarly, Cassidy, a larger and older dog loves pats and curling up with people.  She often falls asleep in people’s laps and her gentle manner has melted many hearts.

Both dogs are said to encourage connection and communication in a ward which can be “pretty bleak sometimes”.   

“I think a lot of mental health patients feel a bit forgotten. Some of them are used to rejection and marginalisation,” said Ms Chiavone. For this reason, it’s a wonderful experience to be included in therapy dog visits.

“Many patients have been pet owners, so pets are really important to them. People love talking about their pets or other people’s pets,” Ms Chiavone added.

In fact, fur family members are so well loved by staff on the ward that there is even a special wall dedicated to them.

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If you too are a fur parent, you will understand the laughter and unconditional love they can bring into a person’s life, how they can be non-judgemental and a companion who might place their paw in your lap and lick your hand when you need some extra support.  

For patients in the ward, the presence of Pepper and Cassidy unmistakably evokes feelings of joy and memories of their own fur babies. The staff are said to benefit just as much from their visits which are supported by The Common Good.

“I’ve noticed how gentle and compassionate patients are towards both dogs, and nursing staff mentioned they are still talking about the Delta Therapy Dogs visit at dinner the day they visited,” said Ms Chiavone.

Benefits of Therapy Dogs

The Mayo Clinic says people with varying health problems can experience reduced pain, depression, fatigue and anxiety as a result of animal-assisted therapy.

Some of the main benefits of the dog therapy noted by staff at The Prince Charles Hospital include:

  • The patients are making a connection with another being that’s not part of the clinical team.
  • It evokes positive feelings and memories for patients and staff.
  • Encourages connection and communication in the ward. People pull out their phone to show others their pets.
  • It’s naturally calming when you’re patting an animal
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Therapy Dogs Funded by Giving Day 2021

Pepper initially began making fortnightly trips to the ward. Her presence was so heart-warming that Cassidy also began making rounds to bring smiles to patients and staff at the ward.

Pepper and Cassidy’s visits are the result of generosity bestowed upon The Prince Charles Hospital at Giving Day in 2021. The Giving Day Campaign last year raised more than $260,000. It is thanks to that generosity of our supporters that we are seeing many significant projects, like the Delta Therapy Dogs visits, come to life.

It’s hoped that more therapy dog visits can be enabled across a range of other hospital wards. This year Giving Day falls on November 30 and aims to support projects which benefit the frail and elderly members of our community.

Published: 17 October, 2022


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