She is blonde, with deep-knowing eyes and one of the most compassionate faces you will ever see—and has a nose for patient needs. Meet Lois, CHOC’s first resident dog and a new badge-carrying staff member of the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department.
Today, she is draped across the bed of a young patient.
“She’s had a hard day of work,” the 8-year-old girl says. “Let’s just let her sleep.”
Lois underwent an extensive and specialist two-year training program. Chloe Krikac, a child life specialist and Lois’ handler, also underwent an intensive two-week training program. It is a match made in hospital.
Philanthropy Makes This Possible
Supported solely through philanthropy, founding support for the Resident Dog Program was provided by Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation’s Dogs for Joy program, with additional support from PetSmart Charities and Pastime with Purpose. CHOC is also grateful to its training partner, Canine Companions for Independence.
Unlike pet therapy animals brought to the hospital by volunteers to provide cheer, resident service dogs are highly trained to be a vital and integrated part of therapeutic treatment. These dogs, who live with their CHOC handlers, help patients achieve their medical goals one wag at a time.
A Nose for Compassion
Lois is tasked with helping patients and their families cope through many situations. Her duties include providing comfort at the time of diagnosis, play-acting “dogtor” as a therapeutic way to help patients understand abstract and difficult concepts like cancer or diabetes, motivating children to accomplish difficult things and providing much-needed comfort in palliative care, and end-of-life and bereavement situations.
“I think she instinctively knows that she has an important job to do,” Krikac says. “So, amid pain, hurt, demanding treatments and challenging days for patients, she brings joy if only for a moment, simply by being herself. It’s incredible to see the smiles she has brought so far.”
Bringing Joy and Healing
Fourteen-year-old Aviva had overdosed and was waiting to be placed in CHOC’s Cherese Mari Laulhere Mental Health Inpatient Center. She had a bad headache, too. Reserved and quiet, Aviva wasn’t saying much to her medical team. Until Lois came in, hopped up on the bed and laid down. Her presence opened the door for a conversation as Aviva talked about her dogs at home, which slowly led to her talking about the lack of support she experienced at school and how much she misses her friends. Through it all, Aviva strokes Lois’ soft fur and ears and smiles. When the nurse came back with headache medicine, Aviva demurred, saying, “My migraine went away, and I don’t need the pain meds anymore. Lois was my medicine!”
Medicine With a Tail That Wags
Resident dogs bring many positive impacts to a hospital environment, including reducing stress, enhancing calm and security, easing the perception of pain, decreasing fear, improving mood, building trust, increasing the hormone that produces feelings of happiness and decreasing the hormone that is produced during times of stress. Lois is a treatment and therapy wrapped in fur with a wagging tail.
While Lois is uniquely qualified to lend a therapeutic paw to hold, she also knows 40 commands and can tug kids in wagons, play UNO and hop on a patient’s bed for some cuddle time. And she also is there to provide comfort to hospital staff.
“Some of my favorite things about Lois are her forehead wrinkles, her expressive eyebrows and her lab wiggle when she walks!” Krikac says with a smile.
You can make a “pawsitive” impact: While CHOC’s resident dog program provides invaluable services to patients and their families, it is sustained solely through philanthropy. Your support can help us encourage patients and their family to stay positive during the healing process.