‘They Provide That Unconditional Love’: Therapy Dogs Relieve Anxiety At Children’s Vaccination Clinics


The scene inside some of the region’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics looks a little less typical these days, thanks to the four-legged help of several therapy dogs stopping for a visit.

“At the place where the children are lining up, we have the opportunity to visit the child and his parents and get to know each other. And then after they have put the needle, in the recovery area we are also visiting there,” said Andy Goulden, coordinator of the St. John Ambulance KW Therapy Dogs.

Nine therapy dogs are circulating, and the first day is considered a great success.

“Fabulous! It was great for everyone to see smiles on their faces,” Goulden said. “And a small decrease in the temperature of the room, so to speak.”

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association of Waterloo Wellington (CMHAWW), dogs can make a remarkable difference to children in unfamiliar surroundings.

“They give us that right to unconditional love. It is also warm, welcoming and inviting. It will also reduce parental anxiety, reduce anxiety and stress for children,” said Meredith Gardiner, director of services for CMHAWW.

There will be up to four dogs a day at the boardwalk clinic alone, in the hope that as the vaccine campaign continues to escalate, a “stimulating” experience may also provide a touch of comfort.

At the Pinebush Clinic in Cambridge, animal-themed drawings and video games are assembled in an effort to make the experience more engaging for children.


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