At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, some of their most popular caretakers are known for their warm, furry hugs and sloppy wet kisses. That’s because their facility dogs are specially trained to provide animal-assisted therapy to patients at the facility. Their dogs, which are part of the Canines for Kids Program, not only give love and comfort, but they also aid clinical teams in their goals of providing treatment to children.
Canines for Kids
We all know that dogs are special, but Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHA) has a furry fleet of 14 specially trained pups that truly do go above and beyond to be a friend — and more — to individuals in need. They inspire confidence and instill strength while providing comfort and companionship. They’re even able to bring joy in challenging situations that are difficult to face.
According to its website, Canines For Kids is a goal-directed program that helps patients cope, heal, and achieve treatment goals while at the hospital. Each hospital-based facility dog has a Children’s employee handler who is responsible for caring for and managing the dog. Their dogs and trained handlers work as a team to provide comfort, support, and distraction for young patients during procedures and hospitalization.
The popularity of emotional support animals (ESAs) continues to grow, especially for use with children.
At CHA, each facility dog works with healthcare providers to decrease anxiety and stress associated with the hospital environment and to increase the normalization of the surroundings. They also support the overall social, physical, and emotional development and treatment of the patient. Their presence
provides a welcome distraction and support during procedures, tests, and the overall experience of hospitalization.
Therapy dogs also motivate and encourage patients to reach treatment goals, like learning to walk or taking medications. They are known for reducing feelings of loss and loneliness associated with being separated from home, family, and their pets. One of the things they do best is to provide patients with unconditional love and acceptance through physical contact and soft touch. They simply are the best!
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta welcomed their very first facility dog, Casper, to their staff back in 2009. Said to be the first program of its kind in the country, Canines For Kids has since grown into a thriving program and a model for other hospitals and children’s healthcare facilities to emulate. If you live in the area and your family is interested in a visit from one of their fuzzy facility workers during a hospital stay, ask your child’s nurse or child life specialist.
Finally, as a 100 percent donor-funded program, CHA relies on charitable contributions to help keep their dogs in tip-top shape and the program up and running. If you’re interested in helping, there’s a “Give Today” button on their website you can conveniently donate through.