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Josei Seven Magazine Features Shine On! Therapy Dog Program

2011/11/24 23:00 Facility Dog, Media Coverage

The Tyler Foundation’s Shine On! Therapy Dog Program was featured by the magazine, Josei Seven Magazine, on November 24th, 2011.

Below is our own English translation of the article.


Josei 7 – November 24, 2011 issue

A Moving Report

For children battling illness, Bailey the therapy dog brings healing

“Hooray, Bailey’s here!”
The children’s faces fill with bright smiles as they pet the white dog, who sits wagging his tail quietly. What makes this scene different from the norm is that it takes place in a hospital ward; the children’s small bodies are connected to IV tubes and covered in bandages. Today, Bailey the therapy dog has come to help the sick and injured children feel better.

It’s a warm afternoon in early autumn, the sky is calm and clear. As always, the white-haired dog has come to the hospital with his handler, Yuuko Morita (age 30). “Hello again, Bailey!” come the bright voices from the nurse’s station. Bailey continues to pad briskly down the corridor, his fluffy tail wagging back and forth. When he reaches the playroom where the patients of the children’s ward are playing, he curls up on the floor. All at once the pajama-suited children gather around. All together they brush Bailey’s face and back, tail and paws, but Bailey doesn’t even flinch. It’s almost as if he’s saying, ‘Come on, pet me some more!’ When Bailey is around, the children forget their illness and seem just a bit happier.

Bailey, who will be 4 years old soon, is a male golden retriever. Born in Australia, he was raised and received special training to be a therapy dog, at a training center in Hawaii. Therapy dogs are canines who work at hospitals and clinics, working to strengthen the recovery of patients with physical and mental illnesses and injuries. Along with seeing eye dogs and service dogs, the work done by therapy dogs has received much attention in recent times.

Bailey first met his handler, Morita, two year ago, in November 2009. Up until then, Morita had worked as a nurse at a large children’s hospital in Tokyo.

“The daily struggles of the children I saw at the hospital were harsher and more rigorous than I ever imagined. The fear and pain that accompanied their treatment, and the various tests and procedures their small bodies were subjected to. I wanted to return the smiles to their usually expressionless faces. Just when this want grew stronger, I received an invitation to become a handler.” -Morita

A handler is a person who works with a therapy dog as a trainer, coordinating the animal therapy. Morita chose this new career path with conviction, leaving behind her nursing job of five years. While completing her courses at the training center in Hawaii, Morita received wonderful news. “A therapy dog will be stationed at the hospital.” —She received the news that the program had been approved at the Shizuoka Children’s Hospital, the first time it had been attempted in Japan. Without having completed her training, Morita immediately placed an international call, and leased a condo in Shizuoka. She then returned home with Bailey. That was the next step on her new path.

Bailey and Morita now spend their days at the Shizuoka Children’s Hospital. Their daily activities have become the subject of a nonfiction book, “I Love You, Bailey! A Therapy Dog and the Kids of the Children’s Ward” (written by Rumiko Iwasada with photos by Hideo Sawai, published by Shogakukan). Below is an excerpt from the book, an interview with Morita describing the interactions between the children and Bailey.

“I want to see Bailey every day!”

Shortly after starting their visits, Bailey and Morita met Mako, age 16, who had been at the hospital for almost a year. Mako’s medicine caused her hair to fall out, and her face to swell. Being a teenage girl, Mako refused to meet with anyone, and closed off her heart. One day, Bailey had come. Mako loved dogs. Sitting in a wheelchair, she faced the entrance of the ward where Bailey was waiting. […] When Mako brushed him, Bailey watched her with a calm expression. “You’re so cute! I love you, Bailey! I love everything about you!” With the appearance of Bailey, Mako’s once lonely hospital life began to change. Though she had little interest in conversation until then, Mako began to talk excitedly to her family and the nurses about Bailey. At that time, however, Bailey only visited the hospital three days a week. “Mako wanted to see Bailey every day, so we made a direct request to the hospital director. Right after that, last July, Bailey began working at the hospital every day. It was Mako that set Bailey firmly on the path as a therapy dog,” Morita explains.

Mako is now a high school senior. She still has to visit the hospital for treatment, but she is living the life of a healthy, normal high schooler. “She’s said that she would like to become a nurse in the future. You would think that because she has such painful memories associated with illness, she would have grown to hate hospitals, but that is not the case. She has come to think of hospitals as a ‘place of hope,’ and it might be all thanks to Bailey.” Morita continues, “Bailey really loves to be around people, and can instantly adapt to any situation, no matter what someone wants or needs. I’ve come to realize that he was just born with an extraordinary disposition, which is perfect for a therapy dog.”

For example, during the scene described at the beginning of this article, when children surrounded Bailey while he was lying down, there was one child who hung back from the circle. He was a “new arrival,” having just been admitted to the hospital. “Bailey is a big dog, so the child must have been a bit frightened at first. The children who had been there longer told him, ‘Bailey’s not scary,’ and ‘It’s okay, you can pet him!’ Thanks to Bailey, the children quickly grew close.” —Morita

Holding the Leash in Front of the Operating Room

Besides Mako, there are not a small number of patients at the Shizuoka Children’s Hospital with so-called “terminal” illnesses. Thus surgical procedures are a daily sight. However, as far as the children are concerned, there’s no reason not to be afraid of surgery. On this day, there are children sobbing in fear. There are some children that have blank faces and won’t say a word, likely due to nervousness. However, Bailey has changed that, says Morita. “Though the thought of going to the operating room can be terrifying, there are plenty of children who will go if Bailey is by their side. So I accompany them, with Bailey on a leash, to the entrance of the operating room, and sometimes until they receive anesthesia.” Even undergoing anesthesia can be frightening. Yet, when the nurses say, “Oh look! Bailey’s wishing you good luck!” they say it brings a smile to the children’s faces.

In the book, Shizuoka Children’s Hospital’s anesthesiologist, Dr. Horimoto, has the following to say.

“When the children’s mothers accompany them to the surgery, they are relaxed, and there is data that shows this makes their post-surgical recovery much easier. […] When Bailey is nearby, I think the effect of his presence is just like a mother’s. Occasionally, some children like to brag, “I have surgery with Bailey tomorrow!””

In his two years of service at the hospital, Bailey has probably come in contact with over 5000 children. Among this number, there are certain experiences that have left both Morita and Bailey heartbroken. One such case was a little boy named Yuzuki. Like the other children, Yuzuki loved Bailey very much. Yuzuki was 1 year and 10 months old last July. He was undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, but when his condition worsened, his attending physician estimated that Yuzuki only had six short months left to live. His parents wanted Yuzuki to spend his remaining time with his family, so they decided to check him out of the hospital. After that, Morita brought Bailey to Yuzuki’s home to visit whenever she could. “I just wanted to see Yuzuki smile…” —Morita

At that time, Yuzuki had tubes inserted into him to help him breath, and so he could not use his voice. Like always, Bailey and Morita came to see Yuzuki. When the time came to return to the hospital, Bailey said her goodbyes and Bailey turned away. “Bai, ley…” They were certain they heard a faint voice through the tubes, where the should have been none. Yuzuki wanted badly to spend a bit more time with Bailey—this pure emotion caused something miraculous to happen. This July, Yuzuki’s short life came to an end, just before the age of 3.

“Bailey sat attentively by the motionless Yuzuki’s side, waiting for him to wake up.” —Morita

Of her future with Bailey, Morita says, “It’s wonderful for Bailey to be a ‘fun dog’ when children pet him, but I’d really like it if Bailey could assist the hospital staff in the children’s treatment, with his abilities put to greater use in animal therapy.”

Today, tomorrow, and always, Bailey and Morita will be helping to heal children, and bringing smiles to their faces.

1 Comment

  1. Azhar says:

    wow this is ralley helpful i just met someone who has this unfortunate disease D: so i wanted to know more about it so thanks you!