Tara Jane: A Natural Healer

Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 11:41am
Pet Therapy Volunteer, RPCI

Tara Jane and I have been volunteering in the Pet Therapy Program at Roswell Park for five years. We began this journey in memory of my late husband John.

In 2000, we chose Tara Jane from a litter of six to celebrate John’s remission from larynx cancer. Even as a puppy, her natural ability to heal was evident. When John’s cancer relapsed, Tara Jane remained a loyal ally during the fight. She sat in his lap for hours - bringing him joy on even the hardest days. In 2003, John lost his battle with cancer. As a patient of Roswell Park, I knew he would want us to continue helping others. To honor him, Tara Jane and I set out to do just that. 

I had Tara Jane tested for Therapy Dogs International at her obedience school - Western Lakes Training Club. Our wonderful trainer, Rob Mamone, was a great help in preparing us for this process. After Tara Jane was tested, I contacted volunteer services at RPCI, filled out the volunteer application form and joined the Pet Therapy Program. Since that day, she has touched the lives of so many patients and families at RPCI. 

As a certified Therapy Dog for five years, Tara Jane has accumulated 1,000+ visits to local hospitals, nursing homes, schools, senior centers and libraries. Her gift of healing continues to amaze me. I know in my heart that my late husband would be pleased to see the joy she brings to everyone she meets.   

A few fun facts about the Pet Therapy Program at Roswell Park:

  • The program, one of many healing and therapeutic services available to RPCI patients, was launched in 2006. 
  • Almost every day at Roswell Park, you will find a therapy dog making the rounds over the course of a 1-2 hour visit.  
  • The dogs provide companionship and emotional healing by reducing feelings of loneliness and depression among patients. 
  • They are trained and temperament-tested.
  • Their presence can bring contact from “the world outside the hospital.” 
  • We ask patients and the family if they would like a dog visit so that they can decline if they are afraid or dislike dogs, or are allergic.
  • Pet therapy has been recognized by the National Cancer Institute as a complementary and alternative medical technique for cancer patients.
  • Numerous physiological and psychological studies have documented the benefits of human-animal companionship, proving that contact with animals can have specific and measurable positive effects on the human body and mind.

Tara Jane and I visit RPCI every Monday at 9:30 a.m. We look forward to seeing you! 

To learn more about the Pet Therapy Program at RPCI, listen to Dr. Nicole Gerber, PhD, Occupational and Environmental Safety Program Manager and co-creator of the Therapy Dog Program, discuss the benefits of Pet Therapy for patients on Roswellness Radio