For most people who work full time, Friday is the
best day of the week, a time of celebration as it’s the
last day of a long work week before the weekend.
Friday is Cassius’ favorite day of the week,
too—but not because it means the end of the
work week. It’s because it’s the one day of the week that
Cassius goes to work.
And he does love to go to work—as a volunteer at
FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.
Cassius isn’t your typical hospital volunteer. In fact, if
you pass him in the hall, you’ll probably wonder why he’s
in the hospital at all. Look closely, though, and you’ll see
the official FirstHealth volunteer badge attached to his
collar, complete with his picture, full name and volunteer
assignment—Cassius Sloan, animal-assisted therapy.
Cassius is my dog, a Boxer, but don’t let the name of the
breed fool you. Cassius is a gentle, comforting dog and the
perfect companion to help patients become healthier and
happier. He was given to me as a gift when he was just a
puppy. Now I have the opportunity to share the gift of Cassius
|Inpatient Rehabilitation patient Penny Black enjoys a visit with Cassius, a canine “volunteer” in Moore Regional Hospital’s Animal-Assisted Therapy program.
Animal-assisted therapy at Moore Regional involves
neurology and Inpatient Rehab patients. Cassius and I
volunteer for an hour each Friday, helping therapists with
patient-directed rehabilitation activities.
During these activities, a patient might walk with Cassius
to increase ambulation skills or brush him to improve upper
body strength and increase range of motion. Sometimes
Cassius’ mere presence is enough to help.
Studies have shown the significant improvement that
occurs among patients when pets are included during
therapy sessions. It didn’t take long for me to learn just how
significant those improvements can be.
During our first volunteer visit to Inpatient Rehab, Cassius
and I met a patient who was recovering from a stroke. From
the first moment that patient was wheeled into the rehab
gym and caught sight of Cassius, he was reaching out to
touch his new-found four-legged friend.
Cassius and I walked over to introduce ourselves, and
Cassius sat beside the wheelchair as the patient clumsily
patted him on the head—something Cassius has become
accustomed to during our visits and doesn’t seem to
mind at all.
The physical therapist working with the patient noticed
the interest he was taking in Cassius, so she asked if he
would like to take the dog for a walk. Without hesitating, he
nodded his head.
Want to volunteer?
To volunteer with the animal-assisted therapy program at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, volunteers
and pets must become registered Pet Partners through Delta Society.
Delta Society brings together individuals who share a common passion—a love of animals and people—to
enrich and positively impact the lives of others.
Handlers can be trained in a 12-hour course or through at-home study. Dogs are tested not only for skills
and aptitude but also to ensure that they have the temperament to perform in a therapeutic setting. They must
also have a veterinarian’s OK and be current on all vaccinations.
For more information, visit www.deltasociety.org or call Moore Regional’s Volunteer Services
I gave Cassius’ long leash to the patient, but held on to
a second, shorter leash as back-up. With the therapist’s
assistance, we began to make our way—slowly and steadily—
around the perimeter of the rehab gym.
As we reached the halfway point, the therapist asked the
patient if he wanted to take a break. To her surprise, he said
no. With a wave of his right hand, he motioned for us to
keep going. So we did, walking almost 50 feet—more than
three times the distance the man had walked since starting
Members of the rehab staff said it was the first time
they had seen this patient smile. I also saw what a
special treat it can be for someone who is primarily in a
wheelchair to “take a walk” with a dog.
Everyone was touched including a small crowd from
the rehab staff who gathered to watch us make our way
around the gym and then broke out in applause to celebrate
the significant progress that the patient made in his
Moore Regional’s Animal-Assisted Therapy program is only
the second of its kind in North Carolina and was funded by a
disbursement from the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation.