MAINE, USA — Koda the therapy dog is becoming a hit throughout Northern Light healthcare facilities in the Bangor area. Koda's healthcare visits started during the pandemic as a way to provide a little stress relief to whoever needs it most.
Stacey Coventry, his owner/handler and volunteer services director at Eastern Maine Medical Center, said calling a "Code Koda" is a different kind of hospital code, to bring support to the employees, not the patients.
"You don't often see dogs walking through the halls of a hospital, so when you do, it kind of gets everybody to just break out of whatever train of thought they might be in," Coventry said.
Coventry said in June 2021 she started asking staff what more they could do to support them.
"What can we do? What would make you feel a little bit better? And unanimously they all asked if they could have a pet therapy visit," Coventry said.
Suzanne Ambrose, a patient advocate at the Lafayette Family Cancer Institute, works to find financial support for patients struggling to pay for their medications, even with insurance.
"They can't always find financial resources, and it's really tough for patients that are struggling," Ambrose said.
It can be tough for patients, as well as the staff when they aren't always able to provide people with the help they need.
"It is very hard, and I do tend to take it home. And just try to keep thinking of ways to help them," Ambrose said.
She's called a Code Koda to provide a change of pace in the workday for her staff.
"We can visit with somebody who's like a friend, and there's no demands, there's no judgment, there's no deadlines," Ambrose said.
"It's really important for the morale," Coventry said.
While Koda may not be able to make all the problems and stresses go away, Coventry said it's a chance for workers to just, "take a pause, take a breath, and pet a dog."
Coventry worked with Pet Partners to get Koda trained to become a therapy dog. She said more therapy dog teams are needed across the state. For more information on how to get involved, click here.