Animals can help us forget our worries and pains, so where better to share their special talent than at a hospital?

Plantation General Hospital uses pet-facilitated therapy (PFT) for patients receiving physical and emotional care. The trained and certified animals, accompanied by their volunteer owners, provide reassurance, comfort, nonjudgmental acceptance and a welcome dose of exercise, play and laughter.

Visiting with animals can help people feel less lonely, and less depressed. Visits from dogs can provide a welcome change from routine, or the renewal of old friendships. People become more active and responsive both during and after visiting with animals.

An animal visit can offer entertainment or a welcome distraction from pain and infirmity. People often talk to the dogs, and share with them their thoughts and feelings and memories. Animal visits provide something to look forward to. Stroking a dog or cat can reduce a person's blood pressure. Petting encourages use of hands and arms, stretching and turning.

The pet makes it easier for two strangers to talk. It gives people a common interest and provides a focus for conversation. Many people in hospitals or group homes have had to give up pet ownership and they miss the casual acceptance a pet gives them. A dog pays little attention to age or physical ability, but accepts people as they are. The benefits continue even after the visit. The visit leaves behind memories not only of the visit, but of past experiences. It offers something for people to share.