Dog "Employees" Cheer Up Children's Patients

Mar 25, 2016

Two of the newest employees at Cincinnati Children's Hospital are dogs.

In just six weeks, Golden Retrievers Drummer and Leica, specially trained facility dogs, have brightened the day for patients, their parents and employees. Ashley Fiffick, Josh Cares child life specialist, is Drummer's handler.  She says, "He is the most popular employee, person, thing, animal in the hospital."

That was evident when we walked to the hospital's Cancer and Blood Disease Institute and saw chaplain Sue Jelinek. She stooped down and told Drummer he is doing important work by comforting sick patients. "We know from all the research it (pet therapy) lowers blood pressure, increases coping and enhances resiliency."

David Havera's two-year old daughter is in the hospital with leukemia. He says, "Bringing a Golden Retriever who has great behavior and a nice load of energy has brought people out of their rooms. In fact one day, there were five two-year old toddlers and they all came out and they were all interacting in ways that they had never done before."

Gia Biondo was in the hospital five months. According to her mother Leanne, "Drummer came in and her eyes lit up when he jumped on the bed. Suddenly, that pain was forgotten about. Gia is like a whole new person when Drummer walks in."

Gia Biondo suffers from pancreatitis, a very painful condition and Drummer helped her forgot about her problems.
Credit Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Right now Drummer sees inpatients and Leica visits the outpatient clinics.  Child Life and Integrative Care Senior Clinical Director Sharon McLeod says the only problem is there aren't enough dogs to go around. "Since they're arrival we have lots of people who would like to have the dogs come by and see them and even when we're taking referrals we know we won't be able to meet all the needs."

McLeod says Children's hopes to get more facility dogs.