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Children’s Hospital to get dedicated therapy dog

Jul. 19, 2018, 9:02 AM

Pet therapy dog Layla and her handler, Christi Williams, were among those who took part in Tuesday’s ‘Dog Days of Summer Paw-ty’ at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Paige Turner

Mars Petcare and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt announced July 18 a new collaboration to create the Mars Petcare Pet Therapy Fund to support a dedicated facility dog and staff position at Children’s Hospital with a goal of showing how pet visits improve the health of patients — thus getting them home faster.

This collaboration comes as part of Mars Petcare’s BETTER CITIES FOR PETS initiative, which aims to bring the healing power of pets to more children and families nationwide.

“While the benefits of pets have been well documented, never before have we studied the positive impact of a facility dog on the length of a patient’s hospital stay or the cost of care,” said Mark Johnson, Mars Petcare North America regional president. “That’s why we’re honored to join efforts with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital — and their staff who work tirelessly every day to improve the lives of their patients — to bring this program to life. It’s hard to imagine a group more deserving of a dog’s love than these children and their families.”

The announcement was made during the hospital’s annual dog show, the “Dog Days of Summer Paw-ty” for patients and families, which featured a dog show and meet-and-greet with several pet therapy dogs and hospital volunteers.

Patient Noah Kiser, 6, plays with Elvis at Tuesday’s event. (photo by Susan Urmy)

“We are so thankful to Mars Petcare for affording us the opportunity to add a facility dog to our team. Facility dogs are experiencing much success in children’s hospitals across the nation,” said Janet Cross, administrative director of Patient- and Family-Centered Care. “The facility dog will add a new tool for normalizing a child or teen’s environment, reducing anxiety, alleviating fears, and distracting from difficult experiences for short periods. Facility dogs and their handlers are trained to work in health care and perform animal-assisted interventions. The facility dog will also offer a much needed source of strength and support to health care professionals who do hard work every day.”

A key component of this effort is to collect data that demonstrates the health, well-being and economic impact a facility dog, used as a therapeutic tool, can have on patients, families and staff. Ultimately, Children’s Hospital will use this information to provide better outcomes for more patients and families. Through its WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, Mars Petcare has been studying the effects of human-animal interaction for decades.

Research consistently shows the healing power of pets, and as their role in healthy communities continues to be explored, this program will further research into the clinical potential of human-animal interaction.

While Children’s Hospital currently works with teams of local therapy animals, there aren’t currently enough teams to support the needs of patients and their families. A dedicated facility dog will allow the hospital to spread the benefits of working with therapy dogs to more families than ever before. The facility dog is slated to arrive at Children’s Hospital in early 2019 and will be incorporated into the hospital’s Patient- and Family-Centered Care program.

“We have seen the effect that pet therapy animals have on our children, their families and our staff,” said Kathie Krause, MSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Children’s Hospital.

“To join with Mars Petcare and witness this healing each and every day is quite special for all of us. We are very excited about this collaboration and the love that our own special dog will bring to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.”

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