As many companion animal guardians already know, dogs and cats seem to have the extra special ability to perk us up when we’re feeling down, either with a soft touch of a paw or with a smoothing purr or happy bark.

The gentle nature of many dogs and cats make them perfect candidates for animal-assisted therapy programs. To become a part of these programs, prospective therapy animals must complete a certification course with their handlers and pass a test prior to interacting with hospital patients, victims of abuse or neglect, and military veterans coping with wartime stresses and conditions like PTSD.

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Animal-assisted therapy is believed to improve moods and reduce stress of those coping with difficult conditions or situations. In order to provide additional scientific support for these benefits, a study is now happening nationwide, with major hospitals in Portland, Ore. taking part.

Portland Business Journal recently visited Randall Children’s Hospital, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center to see therapy animals, like 10-year-old tabby cat Huck Finn, Golden Retriever Parker, and Great Pyrenees Rogan, work their magic.

Check out the beautiful smiles these animals brought to the faces of a few sick kids in the photos below!

Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal
Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal
Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal
Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal
Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal
Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal
Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal
Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal
Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal

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To view more photos, please visit Portland Business Journal’s online gallery.

Lead image source: Cathy Cheney / Portland Business Journal