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St. John Ambulance Therapy dogs soothe nerves while working at Abbotsford COVID clinic

Wagging tails and puppy kisses greet visitors and staff at Fraser Health immunization clinic
Therapy dog Sophie with her owner Barbara at the Abbotsford COVID-19 Immunization Clinic. (St. John Ambulance photo)

There were a handful of very good volunteers at the Abbotsford COVID-19 immunization clinic recently.

The St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program put in a shift at the clinic in an effort to help soothe the nerves people experiencing fear or anxiety at the clinic.

Receiving an immunization can be a stressful experience for anyone. Therapy dogs are known to help reduce these feelings by offering affection and emotional support to those who are receiving their immunizations.

So it was all paws on deck for this fluffy crew.

Upon arrival, therapy dogs Willow and Kona set off to work with a wag of their tails, eager to brighten the days of visitors by turning fears into smiles.

“All ages, all sizes — when your nerves are rattled, your nerves are rattled,” says Barbara, a volunteer from the St. John Therapy Dog Program and therapy dog owner. Her furry partner-in-action, Sophie, met with clinic visitors as requested, providing comfort with her calming and empathetic demeanour.

No two therapy dogs are alike.

Jester’s approach to care delivery was to hop onto a chair next to a visitor and place his head on their legs, letting them pet him as they received their immunization. He even helped soothe one child with a comforting lick on the cheek. The child was so delighted they didn’t even notice the immunization.

“The St. John’s Therapy Dogs have been a welcome addition to the Ag-Rec COVID-19 Testing and Immunization Centre Clinic team,” says Jo Demet, patient care coordinator. “I have noticed that stress and tension always seem to decrease when they are on site. We could have a room full of anxious children but with one lap around the space from one of our furry friends and the entire room lightens up.”

And it’s certainly not just the kids who delight in the visits.

“What a positive difference the therapy dogs made to the vaccination experience, not only for the children, but also for the staff and all the citizens we vaccinated,” says Liz Findlay, director of regional specialized populations requiring immunization.

For updated information on our current COVID-19 immunization clinics, including hours of operation, visit

Anyone five years of age and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and may register on the Get Vaccinated provincial system to be notified of when to book an appointment.

READ MORE: B.C. public servants head to court around vaccine mandates that led to termination


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Therapy dog Kona with her owner Jackie at the Abbotsford COVID-19 Immunization Clinic. (St. John Ambulance photo)
Therapy dog Jester with his owner Roy at the Abbotsford COVID-19 Immunization Clinic. (St. John Ambulance photo)
Therapy dog Willow with her owner Terri at the Abbotsford COVID-19 Immunization Clinic. (St. John Ambulance photo)

Abbotsford News Staff

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