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little kittenA somewhat recent development in the assortment of ‘non-traditional’ modalities available at medical treatment facilities has been the inclusion of visitor animals. Usually dogs, though sometimes cats, rabbits and even llamas and miniature horses are brought in. They make the rounds with their handlers stopping by the bedsides of patients or the chairs of visiting family members and for several minutes are simply present for these people.

They might be petted. A conversation about a loved pet at home may be inspired. Whatever the exchange, the presence of these animals always seems to leave everyone in a better state emotionally. The quantifiers assign values to these experiences to help make the case for their efficacy in healing to the insurance industry. Meanwhile, we animal appreciators already know the value of such interactions to the enhancement of well-being and its impact on alleviating suffering.

What is about these situations that is so positive?

  • Is it the novelty of seeing a bit of the more natural world in the context of the manufactured elements typical in such places?
  • Is it the familiarity and association of good things with animals?
  • The raw connection to the outside world?
  • Their calm?
  • The non-judgment?
  • The soft fur?
  • The big eyes?
  • All of these things?

No one really knows for certain. Not scientifically anyway. Intuitively we do know, though, don’t we. Lfe is better with animals so it stands to reason that healing is easier in their presence.


black lab in the hospital

Visitor Dogs Inspire Healing


  1. Go with a Pet Partner team as they visit people at a local medical facility. Note the changes you observe in patients, visitors and staff alike as they experience the animal present.
  2. Or take a look at this youtube video of such a visit:
  3. Sit quietly with a pet (your own or someone else’s, totally doesn’t matter) and pay particular attention to the changes you may be experiencing internally as a result of this pleasant proximity.

Creative Consideration

You’ll need:

  • colored pencils
  • pens
  • paper or your sketchbook

a. Make a non-representational drawing of what it might be like to experience a hospital room in pain, discomfort and uncertainty or fear.

b. On top of that drawing or on a separate page, make another drawing of how you conceptualize the energy of a visitor animal impacting that same situation.


  • What do you think animals bring to the healing process?
  • Do you have any personal experiences with the influence of animal energy in your own well being?

Jot your ideas down in your notebook


The Delta Society registers what they call Pet Partner Teams (usually a human and a canine, though other appropriate animals may be registered as well) after they pass an evaluation process. These teams then connect with facilities who desire such visits and make arrangements to get on sight and spread this positive influence as often as they can. More info at: