Dedicated nurse illustrates benefits of pet therapy in new book
By Kevin Lambert
“Often when my therapy dog and I are leaving the hospital after visiting our patients, I think to myself how I wish more people could witness the impact these dogs make,” says Janet L. Myers, Director of Risk and Safety at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, Indiana. “The coolest part about the animal-human relationship is that the interaction leads to improved health in both living beings. It’s unexplainable, unparalleled, and unconditional.”
Myers, a Registered Nurse of 30 years and a recently published author, initiated the pet therapy program at Schneck with a gentle soul named Maggie, a Bernese Mountain Dog with an endless well of empathy, intuition, and goodwill. Maggie is the primary subject of The Visit: Healing Moments in Pet Therapy, Myers’ touching new book that spans nearly a decade of her experiences bringing joy to unfortunate people through the human-animal bond (TheVisitBook.com).
“It’s a true story about our journeys to the bedside,” says Myers. “I was attempting to accomplish three objectives: to inspire guardians to use the natural talents of their fluffy companions to serve others, to educate health care professionals on what these amazing animals can do for the outcomes of their patients, and to build awareness with families whose loved ones could benefit from pet therapy.”
The improvement in patient behavior that takes place in pet therapy sessions is apparent to anyone who has ever been involved in the process. The smiles that emerge on faces enveloped in pain, the laughter where none is usually heard, the yearning for a return visit; these are all part of the pet therapy magic that Myers has documented. Her passion for bringing joy to the joyless, however, is further reinforced by her medical training and clinical interpretation of what pet therapy can accomplish on a physiological level.
“As I tell our story in the book, the nurse in me surfaced here and there,” she says. “Those of us in the health care profession demand evidence to support how we administer patient care. There is evidence throughout our visits showing us that pet therapy makes a positive difference in the lives of our patients. The most impactful visits I’ve witnessed are when my dog solicits a behavior from a patient that no other resource has been able to. I’m seeing veterinary professors and physicians putting their heads together more and more to validate the benefits of pet therapy. New settings include its use in radiology, palliative care and post-op pain control. I’m starting a study on using pet therapy with patients on breathing machines.”
Currently, Myers is proud to team up with Bentley, also a Bernese who happens to have the same mild-mannered, compassionate outlook as his predecessor. Myers’ zeal for pet therapy is outmatched only by a deep love for her dogs.
“Bentley’s personality is just right for pet therapy,” says Myers. “Life is fun in his world. If he were a person, he would be that handsome teenage boy with charisma, a bit of unpredictable free spirit and a natural, go-with-the-flow personality. What I value most about him is how kind and patient he is with those he visits. He loves to do the unexpected, like performing one of his tricks without prompting, always eliciting a smile.”
Myers is one of those rare individuals who truly cares, without condition, and without reservation. Her two lifelong loves, animals and healing, are synonymous with animal-assisted therapy, so her complete dedication to the effort is no surprise. It is her dream that more people understand its benefits, and that it takes on the important role in healing that it deserves.