These days good news seems hard to come by. For the patients, families and associates at CHOC, the pandemic has undoubtedly brought its fair share of challenges. And yet, thanks to the steadfast commitment of our corporate and community partners, we have reason to celebrate. Most recently, PetSmart Charities gifted the CHOC Foundation a generous $75,000 grant in support of the hospital’s new Resident Dog Program.
Animal-assisted therapy plays an important role in holistic healing by minimizing the stress and anxiety of hospitalization and illness, while encouraging positive health outcomes like increased mobility, sensory integration and socialization. For over 20 years, CHOC has offered its patients and families pet therapy through volunteer handlers who donate their time and compassion to the healing journey. Unfortunately, due to limited volunteers, brief shifts and access restrictions, our current services fall short of meeting the hospital’s tremendous need for this therapeutic intervention.
Thus, the CHOC Foundation began in spring 2019 to partner with committed supporters to raise the needed funds to launch a new Resident Dog Program that will enhance the hospital’s pet therapy services. PetSmart Charities’ recent grant increases the funding support provided by Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation and Pastime with Purpose, through which Los Angeles Angels’ pitcher Andrew Heaney has donated. Together, these partners’ crucial contributions will make the launch of the program a reality.
During the program’s first year (tentatively 2021), CHOC plans to secure two resident dogs: one for our Cherese Mari Laulhere Mental Health Inpatient Center (MHIC) and one for our hospital’s inpatient units serving oncology, pediatric intensive care, cardiovascular intensive care, neurology (including epilepsy monitoring) and general medical surgical. Before joining the hospital’s team, these highly-skilled resident dogs undergo a multi-year training process during which they learn commands to perform complex tasks in a pediatric hospital environment. Our resident dogs will work hand-in-hand (or hand-in-paw!) with CHOC Child Life Specialists, so we can more deeply embed animal-assisted therapy into our patients’ care plans and family services, adding a dynamic resource to our available treatment modalities.
The CHOC Foundation is deeply grateful to PetSmart Charities for its long-standing support of our pet therapy services and its recent grant to this exciting new program. We hope to onboard more resident dogs in the years to come, building this incredible resource and aligning CHOC with children’s hospitals nationwide that have invested in a facility dog program, an evidence-based, best practice in pediatric care.