For pediatric patients, staying in the hospital can be a frightening, vulnerable and lonely experience, especially when undergoing serious medical treatments. Thankfully, research has shown that dogs, with their playful, comforting and loving nature, can have beneficial, long-lasting effects on pediatric patients.
According to Purdue University, interacting with animals in different environments, including hospitals, could improve our physical and mental health, as well as enhance aspects of our daily lives. Here are a few things to know about in-residence dogs and their positive impact on pediatric patients:
While in-residence dog programs have potential, they are relatively new. Out of more than 220 children's hospitals in the U.S., only a few have in-residence dog programs. By implementing such programs, hospitals could give more pediatric patients the opportunity to experience the joy and health benefits that come with in-residence dogs.
Dr. Jana Stockwell, a pediatric critical care physician at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, serves as a handler for an in-residence dog named Tidings. "Our Children's dogs are full-time employees with a meaningful job to do, and on a daily basis, Tidings helps children be more engaged, encourages them to get out of bed, and even inspires them to tell us about a pet at home that they're missing," she said. "Our in-residence dogs never fail to lift the spirits of kids and adults alike."
Foundation brings dogs to hospitals
To fill this unmet need and further its mission to bring joy to kids battling illness or hunger, the Joy in Childhood Foundation, the independent charitable foundation of Dunkin' and Baskin-Robbins, has launched "Dogs for Joy," a program to bring in-residence dogs to children's hospitals nationwide.
Dogs in this program are bred and trained as service dogs but "work" full-time in children's hospitals. Through more than $2 million in initial grants, the program will increase the number of in-residence dog programs in pediatric healthcare settings around the country and the prevalence of animal-assisted therapy as part of treatment.
The Joy in Childhood Foundation invites children's hospitals nationwide to apply for a Dogs for Joy grant if they're interested in launching a new in-residence dog program or expanding an existing program. Funds awarded cover costs for launching and maintaining an in-residence dog program at a hospital, including adoption of the dog, training of select staff, dog food, dog grooming needs, dog toys and more. Applicants can apply via www.joyinchildhoodfoundation.org/dogsforjoy until March 31, 2019.
Dogs Are Making A Difference In Hospitals