Dogs can have incredible healing powers, and the food industry is taking note. On Wednesday, December 12, The Joy in Childhood Foundation – an independent charitable organization powered by Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins – announced the launch of its Dogs for Joy program, designed to bring in-residence canines 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 aims to dramatically 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, according to a press release. The first Dogs for Joy grantee is Cleveland Clinic Children’s in Ohio.
In-residence dogs, also known as facility dogs, will work to offer distraction, motivation and joy to patients and families. The four-legged pals can also help lower stress and anxiety for pediatric patients and encourage them to complete their healthcare goals.
What’s more, these diligent pooches can be trained to do incredible things such as keeping kids calm during medical interventions, teaching them how to take a pill or modeling how to put on a hospital gown.
Jana Stockwell, MD, a pediatric critical care physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in Georgia, knows firsthand the importance of facility dog programs and the joy they can bring patients and families. Stockwell has been a handler for Tidings, a Goldendoodle that works in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit, since September 2016.
“I could never have predicted the immense positive impact of Tidings, not only for patients and families but also for our staff,” she explained. “When Tidings lies in bed with a patient or nuzzles up next to a parent, smiles and tail wags follow. 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.”
In launching Dogs for Joy, the Joy in Childhood Foundation has adopted its own facility dog, Cooper, who serves as the Foundation’s Chief Joy Officer and the Dogs for Joy program ambassador. In this dual role, Cooper will bring joy to kids through special appearances, including visits to children’s hospitals across the country.
“Our mission is to bring joy to kids in truly meaningful ways. We are proud to launch Dogs for Joy to bring the important benefits of in-residence dogs to more doctors, nurses, child life specialists and most importantly parents and kids,” noted Kari McHugh, executive director of the Joy in Childhood Foundation. “As a mother who has cared for a child with cancer, my family and I know well the happiness these dogs create on even the worst days, and the powerful, positive impact a relationship with a dog can make. I’m thrilled we can bring that joy to as many facilities and families as possible.”
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