By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania SPCA and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) are joining forces for a new program that is aimed at boosting morale and reducing stress among hospital workers.

These are therapy dogs of sorts for the caregivers who deal with high-stress situations every day and even experience the trauma of losing a patient from time to time.

In this monthly program, hospital workers can take a few minutes to reduce stress by participating in the “Pet a Pooch” program.

“We all feel terrible when someone dies, when there is a loss, when we build these relationships and something goes wrong, and so your soul needs some reassurance,” says Dr. Victoria Rich, the chief nurse executive at HUP.  “An animal, such as these great dogs here, they feel lonely.  You can identify with that sadness in their eyes when you touch them and when you hug them, and they validate you as a human.  And that is what this is all about.”

And, SPCA officials hope, a dog who visits the hospital may eventually find a home with one of the workers.

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