Therapy dogs begin intensive course at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge

(11/21/04) OLD BRIDGE - Therapy dogs began an intensive eight-week training program Sunday at the Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge.

It is an advanced course for the dogs that have already gone through a 6-8 week basic obedience class. In the new course at the hospital in Middlesex County, they learn to deal with wheelchairs, I-V poles, walkers and crutches. The course continues every Sunday through January.

Doctors say the presence of the dogs relives stress in patients. By petting, watching and talking to the therapy dogs, hospital workers say it reduces blood pressure and provides a form of socialization for the patient. They add that the dogs are especially helpful to elderly patients who do not have relatives visiting them.

Some dog owners say they volunteer their pets as a way to give back to their community. This is the second year the medical center has trained therapy dogs.

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