Wolfson Children’s Hospital establishes family dog visitation program called “Healing Paws”
Long-term patients can reunite with family pet while in the hospital
May 31, 2013 | Jacksonville, FL
Wolfson Children’s Hospital is believed to be the first children’s hospital in the country to open a dog visitation program called “Healing Paws” to reunite long-term pediatric patients with their pets. The program is an expansion of the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary’s Pet Therapy Program, which brings carefully trained dogs that belong to volunteers to the bedside of patients.
The center, which allows one patient at a time to visit with his or her dog in a private space, is wheelchair- and stretcher-accessible.
The program will focus on long-term patients such as those with cancer or other chronic or life-limiting illnesses. Healing Paws will be managed by Wolfson Children’s Hospital’s Child Life Department in collaboration with the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, who will carefully select patients and dogs for visits. Child Life specialists offer children distraction during procedures and hospital stays through play and emotional support.
“We know that a child’s pet is an important member of his family, and that pets can be a great comfort and source of affection for our patients,” says Wolfson Children’s Hospital President Michael D. Aubin. “We are excited to establish this innovative program as a gift to the patients of Wolfson Children’s Hospital. It is part of our complete body-mind approach to children’s health care.”
Patients who will reunite with their dogs will be carefully chosen by Child Life and must meet certain requirements. The dogs must be at least 12 weeks old and potty trained, and must have a health certificate from a veterinarian ensuring the dog’s good health. The visit takes place in a private area outside of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, but within quick transport distance for children who are ill.
The program began reuniting patients with their dogs May 31, starting with 17-year-old Vanessa Blond and her grandmother’s dog (which she considers her own), Ginger.