STATES CHRONICLE – Most of us can agree that going to the dentist can be a terrifying experience. Regardless of your age, sitting still on a chair while a stranger is messing around with sharp objects in your mouth can bring up a lot of anxiety. So you can imagine that it’s even worse for most children.
But an Illinois pediatric dentist’s office just came up with a great idea to help ease the tension for the patients going in for procedures –bringing in a Comfort Dog to relax the children. More particularly Jo Jo, a loving, soothing six-year-old golden retriever. As expected, kids love her.
But how is this dog to comfort children during their dentist visits? Well, Jo Jo is a trained, certified Comfort Dog. She allows children to pet her or even to hold her paws during the entire operation. And since most kids simply love dogs, it’s to be expected that they actually feel comforted during the potentially traumatic experience.
Lynne Ryan, aside from being Jo Jo’s handler, also works at the Illinois Pediatric Dentistry of Northbrook for Dr. Paul Egger as a dentist assistant. One day, seeing how distressed children seem to be by their first dentist visit, she thought she could try bringing the dog in order to comfort them. Her boss agreed to give it a try, and that’s when the collaboration started.
However, as Jo Jo is a professional Comfort Dog, she is busy most of the time. That means that she only gets to visit the dentist’s cabinet once a month, and only works with patients that are excited to have her around (read “most patients). For the rest of the month, her handler takes her to people in need of comfort elsewhere.
In order to perform such tasks, dogs have to be certified. These therapeutic animals are very highly screened and trained, making sure that they never accidentally scare the people they are meant to comfort. And this is very helpful, since the animals have been used increasingly often as of late.
Some of these Comfort Dogs are used to help veterans settle back into their relatively normal lives after a particularly traumatizing event, including (or especially) those with PTSD. Funeral homes have also started contracting these certified animals to comfort people as they attempt to accept their loss.
Jo Jo herself is a veteran, participating with her best skills in the aftermath of a particularly violent event that left a lot of children traumatized. Back in 2012, a mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut left 26 dead and many traumatized children. Jo Jo was there, on the front lines, comforting as many children as she could.
Image source: Wikimedia