HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children is going to the dogs...therapy dogs, that is.
Asteroid and Orbit make up the golden retriever duo brought on by a Huntsville Hospital child specialist to improve the job for health care workers and the comfort of patients.
Specialist and dog handler Stefani Williams says she researched the benefits of having dogs in hospitals before they joined the hospital.
The dog duo works 40 hours a week Monday through Friday, but Williams says, "Once we get home, the vests are off and they run around in the back yard and live like any other dog."
Asteroid and Orbit's handlers are Certified Child Life Specialists whose roles are to support children with procedures, help them understand their diagnosis and treatment plan, and process through traumatic experiences. Shaggy's handler is a Licensed Master of Social Work who is highly trained to provide comfort and grief support to chronic or seriously ill patients and their families.
Astro and Orbit help with getting blood drawn, going for scans with kids, and dogs will even get on the table with kids to show what it looks like to get an MRI.
When the dogs are around, kids are more at ease and Williams says they help doctors do their jobs more efficiently. "Orbit met with a kid as he had an IV put in and his mother was shocked because he usually needs four people to hold him down."
The dogs and their handlers currently serve these departments at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children:
- Pediatric Radiology
- Pediatric Surgery
- Outpatient Pediatric Therapy
- General Pediatrics
- St. Jude Affiliate Clinic
- Pediatric Emergency Department
- Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
- Palliative Care
- Inpatient Hospice
The Canines for Coping program is 100% donor-funded.