Canine companions give special healing to cancer patients

Published: Mar. 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 19, 2013 at 2:05 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, a strong support system is crucial to enduring the fight against the disease. Four-legged friends are giving that unconditional love, companionship and encouragement to those that need it the most.

Man's best friend just might be the prescription for good health for Erin Davison, still waging on in her fight against non-Hodkin's lymphoma. "It's been hard," she said, "the chemotherapy regiment I was on was pretty strenuous."

Davison's scans are clear today, eight months after her cancer diagnosis. But maintenance chemo is still part of her recovery plan, so is two-year-old Buddy, a lab-pit bull mix. "They love you unconditionally. They love you when you're sick, they love you when you're well, they love you when you're happy, when you're mad...they love you," said Davison.

That love is something CHRISTUS St. Patrick cancer nurse, Karen Seal, knows well. She is a dog lover and sees the importance of these furry friends for the patients she treats. "Dogs are such a care-giving, loving animal and a lot of our cancer patients are pet lovers and a lot of us in the cancer department are pet lovers as well," said Seal.

The after-effects of chemo have made mornings extra hard for Davison, but she says Buddy is there every day to get her going. "He was on me, he was in my face, licking on me, pawing at me, whining, saying 'mom, it's time to get up, you need to get up.'"

Research shows pets trigger a spike in endorphin levels, the "feel good" hormones, and decrease cortisol, linked to stress. "Just to pet or to lay on or for them just to look at you and give you a kiss on the cheek is good," said Davison, "it's uplifting."

Davison says it does not matter if she has been away from her pooch for five minutes or five hours tending to her treatments - Buddy is always thrilled to greet her. "That is wonderful whenever you're coming home from the doctor," she said, "I've got a chemotherapy pump that I'm carrying, but he loves me ... it doesn't matter what I look like. Sometimes he looks at me funny, but he loves me."

Humans and canines will come together Saturday, March 23rd for the American Cancer Society's Bark for Life fundraiser! It is from 9:00-1:00 at the Lake Charles Civic Center. There will be a pet/owner look-alike contest, pet talent show, costume contest and pet fashion show. It is $20/pet to register. Click here to learn more.

Copyright 2013 KPLC. All rights reserved.