SASKATOON -- If you’re feeling anxious about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, two special walk-in clinics in Saskatoon may help put you at ease.

On Thursday and Saturday, people can choose to spend time with a furry friend while getting the shot at Prairieland Park.

It’s part of a joint initiative with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, University of Saskatchewan and St. John Ambulance therapy dogs to give people some extra support, comfort and encouragement to get the vaccine. 

“The dogs are there to just be there to give them some of that little bit of energy that they might need to get that little shot in the arm. And we’re just here to help whoever we can,” said Stephanie Peachey, provincial evaluator for the St. John Ambulance Dog Therapy Program in Saskatchewan.

According to Peachey, this is the first in-person visit for the program’s therapy dogs since March 2020.

“This is exciting for our dogs, it’s exciting for our teams to be here to support a very beneficial situation, but also we know people are very hesitant so we are here to give them that support,” she said.

They will have two dogs per hour at each visit.

If all goes well, Peachey said St. John Ambulance would be open to holding similar events in other areas of the province.

Colleen Dell, professor and research chair in One Health and Wellness at the U of S, said vaccine hesitancy and anxiety surrounding vaccines is why they decided to bring dogs into the mix now.

“The dog doesn’t judge. We know that really strongly from the research that the dog isn’t seen or perceived to be judging. So if someone hasn’t had their vaccine yet, maybe they feel that they’re going to be judged because they haven’t been here, so it’s a little bit harder to get here than those of us who lined up in the beginning,” she said.

“They bring up memories of our own pets, oftentimes when we’re younger as well and these great feelings that we’ve had. So those come and flood us, so that’s one good then. And then when we actually pet the dog, we have oxytocin, right, so, those ‘love hormones.’”

The therapy dogs will be at the walk-in vaccine clinic at Prairieland Park Thursday until 8 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

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