She has three legs, two different coloured eyes and the sweetest face. Six year old Kaeko the therapy dog leaves a trail of smiles wherever she goes, especially when she visits our Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC).
Each week Kaeko visits F5 ward at JHCC with her owner, Mike Ryan. This ward is for patients that are waiting to be discharged to a nursing home or other facility in the community. Most patients are seniors and the average length of stay is 31 days, so they can be in the hospital for quite a long time. They’re at a higher risk of deconditioning and delirium, a state of severe confusion and disorientation that can be triggered by a hospital stay. The Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) at JHCC has developed special programming for patients at risk to prevent their health from declining during to their hospital stay.
“She not only brightens their day, but helps them cope with being in the hospital.”
“Being in the hospital for an extended period of time is challenging, especially for older adults,” says Kelly Turner, an elder life specialist at Hamilton Health Sciences. “The hospital environment has limited opportunities for older patients to participate in meaningful activities. So, we’ve been working to provide a more positive, senior friendly environment with regular daily activities. Kaeko is the perfect addition. Patients look forward to her visit each week. She not only brightens their day, but helps them cope with being in the hospital.”
As a retiree, Kaeko’s owner Mike loves spending his time volunteering.
“There’s no better feeling than seeing the joy Kaeko brings to patients,” says Mike. “I think when patients see she only has three legs and learn of her hardship they can relate to her. But seeing how well she’s doing now gives them hope for their own medical journey.”
In 2016 Kaeko arrived at the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA. She’d be hit by a car and one of her back legs needed to be amputated. Mike is a regular volunteer there and offered to foster her in her recovery. He and his wife immediately formed a bond with Kaeko and they adopted her. The rest is history!
“There’s nothing more therapeutic than the affection of a loving dog!”
Having only three legs hasn’t bothered her – she runs and plays no differently than Mike’s other dogs. Her missing leg does attract attention though and Mike noticed that she is as kind and gentle with strangers as she is with he and his wife. He knew she’d make a great therapy dog so he signed up to volunteer with Zachary’s Paws for Healing.
Since Zachary’s Paws regularly partners with Hamilton Health Sciences, Mike reached out to see if there was any interest.
“It couldn’t have been better timing as we were looking for a therapy dog,” says Kelly. “Kaeko fit in right away. She isn’t bothered by wheelchairs or hospital equipment and snuggles up to anyone willing to give her attention. Not only do the patients enjoy Kaeko’s visits, but family members and staff as well. There’s nothing more therapeutic than the affection of a loving dog!”