UAB doctor keeps puppy’s memory alive by helping train therapy pets

Updated: May. 16, 2019 at 5:45 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Just a short visit by a Hand in Paw therapy pet can have a big impact on a hospital patient.

That was the case for Linda Albright. She’s a patient at UAB’s Center for Palliative and Supportive Care. Albright got a special visit on Thursday from Phantom, a cat that’s apart of the Hand in Paw therapy team.

“I’ve been here two months," said Albright. “So, this means a lot.”

″When we first walk into a patient’s room, you see their eyes light up. It’s an amazing thing,” explained Nancy Kucik, the other half of Phantom’s therapy team.

It’s not just Kucik and Phantom who witness changes in patients when they come to visit, doctors see it too.

“We notice at times very dramatic changes in the overall demeanor,” said Dr. Rodney Tucker, the Director of the Center for Palliative and Supportive Care at UAB. “It really adds an air of something positive during a really stressful and what can be a sad time.”

Therapy cat visits patients at UAB's Center for Palliative and Supportive Care.
Therapy cat visits patients at UAB's Center for Palliative and Supportive Care.(Source: Kenneth Smith/WBRC)

Tucker and his family have created a fund to help train and support therapy teams, like Phantom. It’s called Anna’s Fund and is named for their Shih Tzu puppy.

“Anna was a very special pet, and we felt like she was prime to part of a therapy team,” said Tucker.

Anna died before going through training, so the fund was created in her honor.

“We have a number of facilities that would love to have therapy teams from Hand in Paw, and the waiting list is quiet long," explained Tucker. "Anna’s fund is to give scholarships to help eliminate those financial barriers that a therapy team might encounter.”

A fundraiser called Art & Antiques is scheduled for Friday night. The event goes from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Hand in Paw Training Facility in Birmingham. You can buy tickets and bid on art on Hand in Paw’s website.

According to Tucker, Anna’s Fund has helped trained three therapy pets since being created. The fund also offers financial assistance to therapy teams.

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