‘It Gives You a Lift’

The Sint-Trudo Hospital in Belgium created the space to boost the well-being of long-term patients

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A hospital in Belgium is now allowing long-term patients to spend time with their pets in a newly opened visitation pavilion — all in an effort to boost patient well-being.

The Sint-Trudo Hospital in Sint-Truiden, Belgium, opened the pavilion last month, according to Reuters, allowing patients to see their furry loved ones in person while hospitalized.

The indoor space was funded by a charity and is connected to the hospital. It’s intended for patients in palliative care and those in need of long-term care who cannot visit home and get quality time with their pets.

The pavilion’s creation stems from discussions between cancer patients and hospital psychologists.

“For long-term hospital residents, mental well-being is very important in their recovery, and reconnecting with pets really helps,” spokeswoman Miet Driesen told Reuters.

So far, most owners have requested visits from their dogs, but cats are allowed to visit, too.

“With cats, it is usually more a case of patients being worried about their cats than the other way around,” Driesen added.

While most hospitals do not allow pet visits due to hygiene and contamination concerns, the new pavilion at Sint-Trudo is away from other hospital areas, allowing for safe visits. Currently, hospitalized pet owners at Sint-Trudo can visit their furry friends — just dogs and cats for now — for an hour a week at the pavilion.

“Seeing your dog in itself doesn’t cure you, but it gives you a lift,” said Greta Donnay, 56, who reunited with her dog Rambo after a listeria infection. “You cannot explain to a dog what’s going on and why you’ve been absent.”

Related: Therapy Dog Who Comforted Pandemic Hospital Workers Receives Honorary ‘Dogtorate’

It’s been a big summer for therapy pets. Last month, a therapy pup graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

Spiffy, the English cream golden retriever, wore a small graduation cap and even received his diploma on stage — but he isn’t going anywhere. The dog is part of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood (SPF) school district’s pet therapy program, and his latest achievement was to mark that his career started around the same time as the Class of 2023 started high school.

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“Spiffy holds a special place in the hearts of this graduating class. He began his journey at SPF while these students entered high school. They have bonded over their time together, so it was fitting Spiffy was there, wagging his tail to see them off , “Dr. Joan Mast, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district superintendent and Spiffy’s owner, told PEOPLE.

Even though he’s not going anywhere, Spiffy still has a large cheering section at graduation.

“The students, staff, and the families and friends in the audience were so happy to have Spiffy included in the graduation,” Dr. Mast added.

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