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An Interview Resumed

May 14, 2012

Moretta: Why did you become an animal assisted therapy volunteer?

McCoy: Well, I had Daisy as a puppy originally to raise her to later become a guide dog for the blind. But she didn’t pass their tests so she wasn’t able to do that. I thought that since she is very obedient and calm and just a great dog, I really didn’t want to just keep her as a normal pet. I felt she had potential! (Chuckles) So my friend suggested animal assisted therapy. I did a little bit of research and found the program at CHOC and looked into how to certify her and all that. I basically decided to do it because I had just retired and was looking for a new way to spend my time, uh, a new hobby so to speak.

Moretta: What was the process like for volunteering at CHOC?

McCoy: Well first I had to get Daisy certified like I said earlier. Then you have to submit an application and do an interview and then once accepted the volunteer has to abide by the hospital’s volunteer rules, like attending training and having the necessary immunizations and also pass a background check.

 Moretta: How long have you done this?

 McCoy: I have been at CHOC, lets see…  it will be three years in September.

Moretta: What makes this type of volunteering better than other kinds of community service?

McCoy: I think it’s the reaction from the children. I have always loved kids and helping them, you know. I mean I taught for so long that this was just another way to reach out to kids, but different than what I was used to so it makes everything a little, uh, more refreshing. The dogs bring… uh, uh… a sense of joy into otherwise sad little people. You know animals’ love is unconditional. They don’t care if you have hair or don’t have hair. If you can walk or can’t walk. It’s an unconditional love and that’s why I think this is so important.

Moretta: How do the children react when Daisy is around?

McCoy: The moment Daisy enters the room it transforms the room into something familiar to them such as a backyard where they’re used to throwing a ball with their dog. A dog kind of breaks the ice a little bit and the children are a lot more… um … apt to respond and to do things.

Moretta: Do the patient’s ever talk about the dogs? Like how they make them feel?

McCoy: Patients have described dogs as really happy and hmm… soft and playful. They just love them. Their faces light up and the feeling in the room becomes lighter.

Moretta: Can you give me an example of a patient that reacted strongly to animal assisted therapy using Daisy? 

McCoy: One particular child I can specifically think of, who was having a bone marrow transplant who’d been very sick and really had gone into his shell and the physical therapist had been trying to do, um, physical therapy with him and he really just was not interested so I was asked to come in with Daisy to see if it could help at all. Once I got her into the room… um, it was a whole other world.

And then there was another little girl. She was a brain tumor patient and probably about eight or nine. She was probably in the ICU for probably 2 weeks and she really didn’t open her eyes or respond to anything until Daisy was bought in. She had tubes running in and out of her head to drain the fluid from her brain …um, I threw a sheet down on her bed she, Daisy I mean, jumped up on the bed and she laid her hand on the dog and that was it. She opened her eyes. She uh… immediately responded to Daisy laying next to her. It was a real great experience for her right then especially since everything was taken away from her and at that moment it kind of gave her a feeling of being a kid again.

Moretta: Do you think animal assisted therapy makes an impact on patient healing time? I’m basically asking if you think it does more than just lift their spirits.

McCoy: Hmmm… I would say that it does do something. I’m no doctor and haven’t treated a patient so I don’t have any concrete evidence or a specific story of a time the patient met an animal assisted therapy dog and miraculously recovered, but I would have to say that the change in mood and everything I talked about seems to be evidence that it does something.

Moretta: Would you like to add anything that I didn’t cover?

McCoy:  Well first I’d like to thank you for interviewing me. I feel so special! (Laughs) All I really would want to end on is that it really is gratifying to see an animal make such a difference. I mean I do this for free, but I feel like I am being paid because I always leave the hospital so content with what I have just done. I really feel like Daisy is making a difference in these kids lives, especially ones who have been basically living in the hospital for several weeks. They don’t get to run and play, but having a dog come into their room brings some of the outside world to them and I think it really does a lot for them. I hope to do this for as long as Daisy is willing!

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