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Living Healthy

'Healing Paws' program at BMC cheers patients

BOSTON (WHDH) -- A hospital stay can be a frightening and lonely experience.

But at Boston Medical Center a new program is hoping to bring a little four-legged joy to its patients.

"It's a difficult place to be here when you aren't feeling well, it's nice to have someone thats not a doctor not a nurse, that's not coming in with any medical issues or concerns, just strictly coming in to see you," said Emma Riley of Boston Medical Center.

That's where the dogs come in.

They are part of a program called Healing Paws where trained dogs are brought to the hospital to visit with patients.

"They have to be a certified therapy dog or an assistance dog that has gone through an approved program," said Riley.

All dogs undergo a rigorous health screening and must pass a behavioral evaluation.

Otis, a two-year-old black lab, is one of the special pooches.

He spent the day at BMC, bringing smiles to the patients, including 47-year-old Martin Davey.

"Talk about something lowering your stress and blood pressure, without medicine, an animal, are you kidding, how nice is that?!" said Davey.

"I'm gonna have open heart surgery and two bypasses, I was not thinking of that when Otis came in, I was thinking I wish I had a snack for him!" said Davey.

A few doors down, Otis also cheered up Joan Collins.

"It makes me feel good, all tingly all over, I mean really, I love them so much, I love animals. If it was up to me, he could lay right on the end of the bed, and we could share lunch and dinner," said Collins.

The hospital says, so far, healing paws is a big success...and not only are the patients excited-- but the staff of nurses and doctors loves the visits too!

Some patients are not candidates for a visit due to specific health issues, like a suppressed immune system - but for those cleared, it's an experience they treasure forever.