(Mexico) With his boots, glasses and protective suit, Harley “the One-Eyed” pug, trained as a therapist, begins a new day to relieve the stress of nursing staff at a hospital in Mexico City who are fighting the new coronavirus.
Harley makes his way through the halls of the medical center alongside his owner, clinical neuropsychologist Lucía Ledesma, who puts on a pair of yellow rubber shoes and a fluorescent raincoat with a zipper.
She also covers her eyes with diving goggles, leaving her muzzle uncovered.
Obediently, the beige animal is ready to play for two hours with the doctors and nurses who are fighting the pandemic, finding their smile in the middle of exhausting days.
Dr. Ledesma, who calls Harley her “co-therapist”, says the presence of the dog helps “reduce psychological, emotional and psychological stress” for caregivers dealing with the emergency.
Harley “the One-eyed”, three years old and so nicknamed because of his visual impairment, is part of the service of psychiatry and neuropsychology of the National medical center of November 20.
Within it, he takes part in therapies for patients suffering from “psychiatric, psychological or neuropsychological diseases”, explains his mistress. “From a very young age, we trained him for this,” she says.
Harley’s role in these interventions has been reinforced by her docility and willingness to interact with people, generating empathy, Ledesma said.
Some “colleagues want to play with Harley right away […] We must take into account the time of deprivation of physical contact that we have, especially among the front line staff, who have even isolated themselves from their own family for fear of contagion, “says the specialist.
Ledesma explains that since February, she and her team have been considering incorporating the dog into an emotional support project, anticipating the stress that the epidemic would cause and, in particular, possible congestion in hospitals.
This group includes specialists in biosafety, veterinary medicine and nursing.
Mexico City and the surrounding area of Mexico State is the region most affected by COVID-19 throughout the country.
As of Wednesday, the capital had 10,946 of 40,186 confirmed cases and 1,057 of 4,220 dead nationwide, according to official figures.