The warm and fuzzy canine volunteers from Strong PETS (Pets Engaged in Therapeutic Socialization) will be on hand to launch the sale of a charming new book co-authored by PETS program supervisor Ann Lacey and local artist Mike Fess. The book will go on sale at a book signing that will take place between 10 a.m. and noon on Thursday, Aug. 15, at the Strong Memorial Hospital Gift Shop.
“Just What the Dog-tor Ordered—a Tail of Furry Physicians,” describes the Strong PETS program, and how the dogs interact with patients and families at Strong. Lacey, a former teacher and therapist, started the program in 2000 with her Shetland Sheepdog, Rickey; since then, the number of dogs has grown to more than 20. The dogs make regular visits to adult and pediatric patients to provide comfort, cheer and distraction for those dealing with issues anywhere from stroke, psychological issues or end-of-life care.
Lacey says, “I started writing the book just for fun, but when I saw how wonderful Mike’s work is, I thought it would make the perfect complement to the text so we decided to create an illustrated book. When Friends of Strong heard what we were doing, they suggested it might be a great way to raise money. It’s easy to read, with imaginative illustrations by Mike, and it’s especially helpful for the pediatric patients we visit. The proceeds will help our dog handlers offset expenses for all of the veterinarian visits and immunizations that the dogs are legally required to get each year.”
Artist Mike Fess, a former patient, teamed up with Lacey after they met during a volunteer stint at Ronald McDonald House. Fess has created art for Golisano Children’s Hospital and the Seneca Park Zoo. His work can be seen at the website Drawn to Give (www.drawntogive.com) where he provides illustrated greetings for non-profit organizations.
Data on the health benefits of dogs abound: one Japanese study found pet owners made 30 percent fewer visits to doctors. An Australian study of 6,000 people showed that owners of dogs and other pets had lower cholesterol, blood pressure and heart attack risk compared with people who didn’t have pets.
Animals and their handlers are required to conform to strict N.Y.S. Department of Health guidelines for animals in hospital settings,including receiving a vet screening exam and further training that tests their ability under a variety of situations—loud noises, occasional jostling and crowds, and must also tolerate enthusiastic hugging, laughter, and often, tears.
The $10 book is tax-deductible and makes a wonderful gift. All proceeds go to Friends of Strong. After the signing, books will be available at the Strong Memorial Gift Shop, located right off the hospital lobby.
For more information, contact Friends of Strong at 275-2420.