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Let’s face it, hospitals can be depressing places.

Most of the time when people find themselves in one, it’s not for a good reason. Either someone you know is sick, or you are sick. That’s why when we heard about a new initiative at a Hamilton hospital designed to bring smiles to patients’ faces, we were totally onboard.

Juravinski Hospital recently launched a program that allows patients’ beloved pets to visit them in their beds. And you can just imagine the look on their faces when those precious furballs of joy come out to greet them.

The idea actually came from Donna Jenkins, after her 25-year-old nephew Zachary worked out a program with the same hospital which allowed him to see his dog as he battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Tragically, he succumbed to the disease last fall.

Since then, Jenkins established Zachary’s Paws For Healing, a program that allows patients to visit their pets in hospital. It’s a volunteer-run organization that operates on donations, but Jenkins hopes it can soon be seen as a model for other hospitals to follow.

“This is a pet that comes with unconditional love,” she said. “No matter if you have lost your hair or you have tubes sticking out, they love you no matter what.”

Part of the reason hospital administrators took to the idea so quickly is because they already knew of people who were sneaking pets in during visiting hours anyway. As a result, they were keen on creating a way for patients to do it safely.

The animals, for example, can’t simply be walked into the facility on a leash. Each pet is cleaned before entry, and all animals must be in good health, well-tempered and can’t come into any contact with other patients. So far, the hospital has carried out 25 visits to patients in intensive care.

“I feel very calm… so nice,” Grace Campbell, who has liver cancer, said as she embraced her cat, Cuddles.

You can find out more about Zachary’s Paws For Healing in the video, above.