Pet-Assisted Therapy at Children’s Health

Being in the hospital can be scary and
stressful for everyone – especially children. Daily routines are disrupted.
People are unfamiliar. Everything is just so different. But a little extra
friendship and support to make a world of difference for patients and families
here at Children’s Health. And let’s face it. There’s just really no better friend
than man’s best friend. In fact, studies show that pet assisted therapy can
reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve focus and help children feel
more at home on their journey to better health. That’s why we launched our Pet-Assisted
Therapy Program with the help of volunteers from Paws Across Texas. The
partnership with Paws Across Texas and Children’s started in 2001. The program was
established with Children’s to provide a normalcy to the patients that were here. In 2014, thanks to support from PetSmart and
other donors, we launched the PetSmart Charities Paws for Hope Pet-Assisted
Therapy Program. With these generous gifts and by teaming with our local
chapter of Pet Partners, Pet-Assisted Therapy at Children’s Health is now
available to more patients, on more days at more locations than ever before. Our
newly-expanded program also included the hiring of our first two full-time
facility dogs – Van and Blair, who instantly became celebrities at
Children’s Health. I love getting to bring Blair to work with me every day
and having my best friend with me all the time. I get to see how happy she
makes our patients and families. Van and Blair were soon joined by Espen and
Boots. And most recently by the newest members of the team: Flora, Badger, Keaton and Atticus. Our facility dogs do a really really wonderful job
of being a great distraction for kids during procedures. We can
say things all the time, but having someone like Van or Boots or Blaire
Espen to snuggle with them and love on them and then provide some comfort in
distraction is really powerful. So now, with more than 40 volunteers and 8
facility dogs, our four-legged friends work together to brighten the days of
young patients in a variety of ways, be it a comforting snuggle, a fun-filled trick,
distracting pat or stress-relieving belly rub. Some dogs come in and they do
lots of tricks…and that’s that’s their thing and that’s entertaining and fun. And some dogs like Toby are just here to you love on you or let you
love on them. I think on our unit, it’s the kids, especially if they come in at
night and he comes in in the morning and they’re helping to wake them up and
they’re like there’s a dog on the unit, you really have a dog? This is great. “I like them so much because they’re like so cute when they play together.” At Children’s Health, love truly
is a four-legged word. “There are a lot of services here at the hospital. But Blair’s our favorite one.” “I love the doggies.”

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