back to top

This Heartwarming Program Lets Patients Cuddle With Their Pets In The Hospital

"It reminds people there’s a reason to want to go home.”

Posted on

Nothing feels more like home than cuddling with your dog or cat, and a new program in Hamilton, Ontario, does just that for long-term patients in the hospital.

Zachary's Paws For Healing

The program is called Zachary's Paws for Healing. It's named after a young man with Hodgkin's lymphoma who died last year.

Zachary's Paws for Healing

Zachary Noble was only 25 when he passed away. In his final weeks he was able to hang out with his best buddy, Chase, after hospital staff arranged for a visit. “It lifted his spirits immensely," Noble's aunt Donna Jenkins told BuzzFeed Canada.

"When he realized he was not going to recover, Zachary made me promise that we would do this," Jenkins said.

Zachary's Paws for Healing runs out of Juravinski Hospital and reunites people in long-term care with their fuzzy friends.

Zachary's Paws For Healing
Zachary's Paws For Healing

Zachary's Paws for Healing launched in September after a year of planning by Jenkins and hospital staff. It's believed to be among the first — if not the first — program of its kind in Canada.

There have been dozens of hospital visits in the months since the program started.Vel Snoukphonh, communications director for the hospital, said it’s made a remarkable difference for patients.Hospitals can facilitate pet visits, she said, but the main barrier is the amount of paperwork involved and making sure animals pass infection control safeguards. Zachary's Paws for Healing takes that pressure off the overworked hospital staff.
Zachary's Paws For Healing

There have been dozens of hospital visits in the months since the program started.

Vel Snoukphonh, communications director for the hospital, said it’s made a remarkable difference for patients.

Hospitals can facilitate pet visits, she said, but the main barrier is the amount of paperwork involved and making sure animals pass infection control safeguards. Zachary's Paws for Healing takes that pressure off the overworked hospital staff.

Jenkins said long-term patients feel "prodded, probed, and handled" and often feel isolated from their normal lives.

"They just start to shut down, and when you bring a companion pet in to visit them it tends to open their communication back up, it levels their vital signs, it improves their depression."
Zachary's Paws For Healing

"They just start to shut down, and when you bring a companion pet in to visit them it tends to open their communication back up, it levels their vital signs, it improves their depression."

"It reminds people there's a reason to want to go home."

Zachary's Paws For Healing

Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.