On Tuesday afternoons in the Art Hive at Providence Care Hospital, seven-year old Goldendoodle Lucy greets each person who enters with a wagging tail and enthusiastic demeanor. Sporting a red bandana with her own name tag, her excitement is obvious. Those in the room are equally excited to see Lucy. Lucy’s volunteer handlers, Judith and Don, have a weekly presence in the Art Hive – both in helping people create art and in providing pet therapy.
The Art Hive is a centre for the arts – a space where patients and clients can paint, draw, do crafts, play or listen to music, read and write or simply enjoy some quiet time. You don’t need to be an artist or have any sort of skills to enjoy this one-of-a-kind space. Opened in 2020 thanks to a generous grant from the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation, it is accessible four days per week and has exploded in popularity.
Providence Care Hospital patients and clients, regardless of their age, ability or needs can drop by the Art Hive and try something new in a safe and supportive environment.
In late December, Judith prepared a feel good art project. Patients and clients were encouraged to create drawings on canvas of their ‘good’ traits – doing so aims to help participants become more positive and build a better self-image. They happily created their art pieces while accompanied by Lucy laying quietly on the ground.
Incorporating pet therapy within the Art Hive has seen incredible results. “Everyone knows her name, but not mine!” exclaims Don with a grin, referring to Lucy. Some individuals drop by the Art Hive just to greet Lucy.
Pet therapy at Providence Care dates back to the early 1960s, possibly sooner. For those in the hospital, pet therapy provides comfort, increased socialization and an opportunity to lessen stress and anxiety. Further benefits include promoting healing, lifting spirits and lowering blood pressure. Many patients and clients miss the companionship of their pets at home. It’s a highlight for everyone involved and there’s no surprise that people look forward to it.
“The most exciting part is how people are drawn to Lucy and she to them – including patients walking through the halls and staff too. She brightens everyone’s day and being able to pet and hug her makes people feel happy,” says Judith.
At Providence Care, 12 trained therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers make a difference in the lives of patients, clients, visitors, learners and staff each and every week. Coordinated by Volunteer Services, the pet therapy program provides many smiles and much joy.
“People come to the Art Hive to create and sharing the experience with a friendly dog is an extra benefit. The pets make a huge difference. You can instantly see it – the way people’s eyes light up is incredible. To witness it is simply amazing,” explains Janet Hunter, Director, Volunteer Services.
And pet therapy isn’t just offered in the Art Hive – the program has expanded across Providence Care Hospital and is offered 2-3 times per week on each of the nine inpatient units.
“We have dogs in the pet therapy program ranging from a Pug, to an English Bulldog, to a 155 Bernadoodle. There’s a favourite breed for everyone! If a dog can bring comfort, entertainment and smiles within seconds; the program is a hit in my eyes,” explains Hunter.
The therapeutic interaction between animals, patients, clients and, in this example, combining art – is just one way mental health is boosted at Providence Care. During the cold winter months, a heart-warming, joy-filled experience is even more meaningful for everyone involved.