After listening to members of the Child Life Community and receiving our first grant request for pet therapy, we are happy to welcome Kimono and Vente into the enCourage Kids family. They are the resident facility dogs at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco.
Facility dogs provide opportunities for happy, memorable moments during what can be a challenging time for pediatric patients and their families.
Dogs are often used to lift spirits, lessen depression, provide comfort, and increase socialization for children. During a visit from a facility dog, patients can break from their hospital routine to experience moments that allow them to disconnect from their sickness and feel secure and hopeful. That’s why, when a child recovers and is discharged, we often see faster recovery rates in children who live with a dog or other therapy animal in their household. Those who don’t have a dog but would like one to aid their child’s recovery can quite easily find a suitable breed – they just need to be gentle and loving. One breed that often makes a good therapy dog is a cockapoo. Spaniels are well-known for their adoring nature, whilst poodles shed no hair, making them perfect for children with respiratory problems. You can find your Cockapoo here
, or alternatively, you can look at some other breeds such as labradors and retrievers that also make brilliant companions.
Facility dogs also help children to better cope with their treatment. Eileen McCree, a Child Life Specialist at UCSF Benioff and Kimono’s handler shares that, “Kimono can have a huge impact on a patient’s recovery. She encourages difficult physical therapy, making it fun and providing a little extra comfort just when it’s needed most. For many of my patients, seeing Kimono is the bright spot in their day of treatment.” Additionally, hospital partners share that having facility dogs present before scary procedures can lower anxiety and distract pediatric patients from their pain.
Snuggling with a facility dog provides children with unconditional love, and for many kids, visits with the dogs become the happiest part of the day. They are the perfect distraction and antidote for discomfort and isolation, and are always there to lend a helping paw when things get tough.