Caleb, age 8 & dog Cody
What does a child miss most at the hospital? Being a kid. Celebrating small milestones, hugging their pets and playing with friends. These moments comfort a child and keep their spirits up. Happiness promotes healing. Your gift to the Every Child Fund brings childhood into their lives with play, celebrations, and furry friends.
The Pawprints Program, an animal-assisted intervention (AAI) at Boston Children’s Hospital is one the most popular program that Every Child Fund supports for 23 very furry and friendly reasons. The dogs and their handlers visit most inpatient units, including the ICUs and Oncology, and a number of outpatient clinics on the main campus and in our satellite locations. Sustained by your generosity, Pawprints dogs and handlers help dry tears, inspire breakthroughs and bring joy to countless children.
Before applying to the program, each dog must already be certified as a therapy dog. Then the dog and handler must undergo rigorous vetting before becoming official Pawprints members.
“Some are sleek; some are shaggy; some are large; some are small; some are young; others have been doing this a long time. Some tend to be quietly attentive, while others are perennially enthusiastic. After a while, all know their job well and do it with joy.”- Dr. Amy Koel, behavioral evaluator and consultant, Pawprints program.
The hospital’s Child Life Department is instrumental in facilitating both the initial evaluations and the Pawprints patient visits. The Child Life Specialist in each area of the hospital determines which children may benefit most from the program and is present during each visit to help ensure the most positive experience for each child.
“Pawprints, and the dogs in particular, absolutely speak to children in ways that humans sometimes can't,” says Andrea Lerude, Child Life Specialist in the hospital’s 9 NorthWest Neurology unit. She adds, “I have witnessed children who were unable or unwilling to speak do so in the presence of a dog. One child had suffered a concussion and was not waking up to his mother's voice or touch—but he woke up to a dog. It is amazing!”
Caleb, age eight, has been a Boston Children’s Hospital patient since birth. His dad, Will, explains Caleb’s bond with Pawprints dog Cody. “Seeing Cody makes our visits here very worthwhile and sometimes it’s the only thing that actually gets him in the car, as he’s fighting me to know where we’re going. During our first visit with Cody, Caleb didn’t want to let him go. Caleb has been receiving intravenous immunoglobulin treatments and a few visits ago, he was having an off day, he wasn’t feeling well, and he fought the nurses. We had to watch and make sure he didn’t remove the IV, but as soon as Cody came in, it was a game changer. Caleb immediately didn’t care what was going on with him anymore. He just wanted to pet the dog, give lots of kisses, and walk up and down the hallway. Caleb and Cody enjoy a very special relationship, and for that we’re very grateful.”
With just a velvety nuzzle, a wet kiss or a soulful gaze, man’s best friend can soothe troubled spirits and bring sunshine on the rainiest of days. Thanks to your support of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Pawprints Program, canine companions lavish our young patients with attention, affection and healing love. On behalf of the children and families whose lives you have touched, our deepest gratitude.
PawPrint dog & patient