Therapy animals comfort adults, children facing illness or injury

Posted at 10:08 PM, Sep 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-29 00:08:02-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Four-legged animals are helping to provide children and adults who are sick with a different kind of medicine.

The animals are part of a program called Intermountain Therapy Animals, and their goal is to develop a human-animal bond that helps people heal.

Kollin Galland, 14, broke his neck while jumping on a trampoline several weeks ago, and he said the therapy animal program is helpful. He’s been visited by a dog named Diva.

“She makes me feel happy and more at home,” Kollin said. “It makes me feel better. Like, it takes my mind off of how I'm sick and in the hospital."

Kollin’s mother, Jodi, said things have been rough for her son.

"He now has just limited feeling, from about the chest down he doesn't have much feeling,” she said. “So he’s been doing therapy and working the wheelchair and doing some rehab."

And Jodi Galland said the dog helps.

“Just in that short 5, 10-minute time period that she was with us, he was more involved and active than the whole time we'd been here,” she said.

Kollin said he likes having the dog around.

"I kinda think of her as my friend, and so when she comes and visits I just like to be with her and pet her,” he said.

Diva is part of the Utah non-profit Intermountain Therapy Animals organization, which provides animal-assisted therapy services at more than 150 hospitals and facilities. Susan Danes has been with the organization for about 13 years.

“It’s really wonderful when we go in and we kind of assess the situation and there’s not very many kids that don't like to have a dog, and she's a very gentle dog so she can get up on the bed and snuggle with them and cuddle with them and make a difference,” she said.

Jodi Galland said the dog makes a big difference.

“As his mom, to watch something as simple as a dog come into the room and cheer him up and for a minute not feel that pain and for a minute have peace and joy, it has been a great thing for our family,” she said.

For more information about the program, visit their website.