It is not surprising that the patients, families and staff become attached to the special dogs in the Wolfson Children's Hospital Auxiliary Pet Therapy Program, eagerly awaiting the wagging tails that come bouncing down the hospital halls on their scheduled days. A visit from one of these canines would make anybody's day.
Pet therapy does more than elicit giggles. As the children reminisce about their own pets, the visiting dogs help them feel more at home in the hospital. It is not unusual for a child who seldom smiles or talks to respond to a visiting animal, providing not only a psychological boon, but also a positive effect on his or her oxygen level.
The goal is to have a dog for each day of the week and even with the rigorous screening process and behavioral testings required to join the service, there is never a problem recruiting. Dogs and children seem to be a natural healing combination, and the four-legged volunteers and their "people" trigger smiles and delight everywhere they go.
Those who join remain in the program for years. Candy, a black Lab, was recognized in 2007 for 300+ visits since January l996. The Pet Therapy Program is celebrating 13+ years of service (1995 - 2008) with "tails" of the 8,400+ pet visits to patients and 24,000+ love-pats to pets yearly.
A special thanks to these committed volunteer veterinarians who donate their time to the conduct screenings for pet certification: Susan Ridinger, DVM, Robin Chambers, DVM, Richard Williams, DVM, Richard Ogelsby, DVM, Kandra Jones, DVM, and Moody McCall, DVM.
A newer addition to the Pet Therapy is our Family Dog Visits Program, in which the patient's own dog gets to visit the child in a special room. It's for kids who have been in the hospital 5+ days or in an end-of-life situation. The program, which began in 2013, has special requirements and is a collaboration between the Auxiliary and the Child Life Department.