UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Pet Therapy

By: Quincy Nolan

It was a dog day afternoon on the front plaza outside UPMC Hillman Cancer Center last week for the 10th anniversary of the Hillman Pet Therapy Program. This special event for pups, patients, staff and volunteers featured live music, dog-themed hors d’oeuvres and a Hot Diggity Doggs food cart.  

Bree, 10 years old

When not entertaining the crowds, the therapy dogs enjoyed special doggy ice cream, helped their owners fill goodie bags with treats and toys curated by the volunteer staff, and enjoyed the much-needed shade. 

Jak, 6 years old

 Throughout the decade of Pet Therapy at UPMC Hillman, 64 dogs and their owners have participated in the program at UPMC Hillman’s main campus and six regional locations. Currently, 10 volunteer teams visit patients on a rotating schedule.   

Pet therapy can have a direct effect on helping people cope with health problems by reducing stress and improving mood and energy levels while providing a sense of companionship. At UPMC Hillman, the program permits certified therapy dogs to visit patients and their families in the outpatient clinics.   

“We are so grateful for all of our pet therapy teams who volunteer and give of their time to visit with our staff and patients,” said Amber Miller, director of volunteer services at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “No one wants to come into a cancer center, so having the opportunity to visit with a pet therapy team helps take their minds off of cancer for even just a few minutes.” 

From 200-pound, 6-year-old Jak the Leonberger, to Bree, a 10-year-old Golden Doodle, the therapy dogs consist of a diverse population of breeds, ages, sizes and personalities. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center welcomes additional therapy dogs to the program and hopes to expand to additional UPMC Hillman Cancer Centers within the system.  

For more information on this or other volunteer opportunities at UPMC Hillman, visit our website.