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Service Dogs Providing Leaps in Mental Health for Pediatric Inpatients

Jaclyn Hughes

Are you a dog lover? If so, then this story is sure to pull at your heart strings! It’s kind of a well-known practice to have trained dogs roaming the hallways and rooms of hospitals across the globe for their therapeutic values. When it’s a Children’s Hospital, it seems to be all the more adorable to see the four-legged friends walking through the halls. The Sun Chronicle recently did a piece on a sweet dog named “Hunter” that was providing smiles for many kids at the Children’s Mercy Hospital Hill location.

Hunter is a key component within the newest facility dog program there. The dogs reside with their handlers and travel just like any other employee would to and from work each day. They even have their own business cards! The thought process in employing dogs to visit the kids is for decreasing stress. The more the dogs are around, the calmer some children become; making their daily grind of treatment and having to hang out in the hospital a much sweeter process.

Volunteer groups such as “Pet Pals” are able to step in and utilize their dog programs to help with improving the emotional health of many patients, young and old, across the nation. Those that handle the dogs on a regular basis felt that the furry friends should have a full time place there at the Children’s Hospital, and were finally able to get that passed not long ago with Hunter and his coworker, Hope. The two dogs were trained at the Atlanta organization “Canine Assistants”. This company trains service dogs for tons of pediatric hospitals.

Oncologists have reported a lot of their patients miss their family pets when they have to be admitted for any inpatient care, and through this program the kids have shown great improvement; especially where a frightened child is concerned. The hospital does a great job keeping up with the hygiene rules as well; if you wish to pet the dogs, you must have your hands sprayed to clean them first.

Hunter and Hope are just two of thousands of service dogs providing smiles to sick children in local hospitals. If you wish to learn more, visit your local Children’s Hospital social work teams and inquire if they have a dog team they work closely with, or take it one step further and donate to one of these incredible dog training organizations today!

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