K-9 Candystriper Program

There has been significant research regarding the benefits of the relationships between animals and humans. To name only a few, animal-assisted activities can help lower blood pressure and pulse rates, relieve stress, encourage laughter, increase communication and improve memory recall.

About the Program

The Sentara Obici Hospital K-9 Candystripers are certified therapy dog teams made up of handlers and their canines. These teams make informal visits to patients, families and staff, bringing comfort, unconditional love, a paw to shake and a heart eager to please. These visits provide stimulation, socialization and provide a break from the typical hospital routine.

Program Requirements

As a healthcare organization, the pet therapy program has specific requirements. For the safety of the patients, their families, members of the healthcare team, and for you, we ask all volunteers to commit to the following:

Age: To become a member of the pet therapy program, handlers must be at least 18 years old. Dogs must be at least one year old and must have lived with the handler for a minimum of six months. Both handler and dog should have an interest in people and be comfortable in the healthcare setting or other visiting environments. Handlers must also have good control of, and proactive communication with their dog.

Certification: Prior to training classes, K-9 Candystripers must be certified by Therapy Dog International (TDI).

Interview and screening: We require the handler to complete a volunteer application for themselves and their dog, as well as have an in-person interview with the volunteer coordinator. All dogs must be medically and behaviorally screened prior to the interview and have a statement from a licensed veterinarian that the dog meets all requirements. All volunteers are required to go through a thorough background check, provided free-of-charge.

K-9 Candystripers at Sentara Obici Health Clearances: All volunteer handlers are required to receive an annual tuberculosis (TB) skin test and the seasonal flu vaccine, which are provided free-of-charge. All dog volunteers are required to have current vaccinations and rabies boosters.

Veterinarian records must be updated once per year. If your dog spends any time in a kennel or becomes ill, a release will be required to clear the dog to volunteer. Dogs must be washed within 24 hours of the visit and dry upon entering the hospital. Please ensure that the dog’s nails are kept short and refrain from using any flea and tick topical two days prior to visit.

Orientation and training: All volunteers will attend an orientation and volunteers and dogs will attend four training sessions.

Restrictions: Volunteers must abide by all patient confidentiality guidelines, customer service expectations and hospital policies. Dogs must be on a leash at all times.

For more information about the K-9 Candystriper program, contact the volunteer coordinator at 757-934-4788.

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