Pawsitively Amazing: Celebrating International Dog Day at Texas Children’s

August 24, 2023 | (23) Comments

As International Dog Day approaches on August 26th, I can’t help but feel a tremendous sense of pride and joy as I reflect on the significant impact of the Pawsitive Play Program at Texas Children’s.

This initiative holds a special place in my heart because it’s all about enhancing the emotional well-being of our patients and their families through the power of animal-assisted therapy dogs. Our four-legged employees, Angus, Bailey, Cohen, Pinto and Pluto, and their respective handlers, Meg Gustafson, Adair Galanski, CJ Canlas, Shelby Bonnet and Hanna Kuhn, have an exceptional ability to provide much-needed support to patients, their families and even all of you!

Every time I witness one of our Pawsitive Play dogs at work, I’m reminded of all the remarkable benefits it brings to our patients that truly go beyond physical healing.

The presence of therapy dogs has been proven to reduce anxiety and offers a precious distraction when it is needed most. In fact, Pluto and his handler, Hanna, recently shared a moving story with me about a patient’s bravery when receiving injections during treatment. Before any treatment began, Hanna met with the 11-year-old patient to talk about her feelings of anxiety and introduced her to Pluto. Together, they came up with a coping plan and by simply petting Pluto’s paw and listening to music, our patient was able to remain calm and at peace during her entire treatment.

This story and hundreds more just like it, are the reasons why our Pawsitive Play dogs and their handlers — who spend countless hours training and leading their canine friends to adapt to each specific patient — are so special to Texas Children’s and the healing journeys that take place here.

In addition to our patients, and as I can personally attest, our therapy dogs bring a smile to my face as well. I know many of you can agree that there’s just something about seeing our Pawsitive Play team in the halls that can turn a bad day into a great one.

The Pawsitive Play Program remains a cornerstone in our commitment to providing safe, high-quality, compassionate and comprehensive care to all patients who need us. And as we celebrate all the loving, loyal and amazing dogs we have in our lives, I want to take a moment to express my utmost appreciation for our hard-working therapy dogs and their wonderful handlers. Their presence at Texas Children’s has brought immeasurable comfort to those in need and I remain grateful for all they do each and every day.

I hope that all of you get to spend International Dog Day with your favorite canines. As part of the celebration, I would love to hear stories about the dogs who mean the most to you or how Pawsitive Play has impacted you personally.

I have two dogs at home, Joseph and Zoby, who some of you may know since they love to come to work with me from time to time. They make my life even better and I sincerely hope your pets do the same for you!

Happy International Dog Day!

23 Responses to “Pawsitively Amazing: Celebrating International Dog Day at Texas Children’s”

  1. Randy Hernandez

    As a dog owner myself (Oliver and Parker), I love love love getting to see the therapy dogs at work. I always make it an effort to say hello when I see them in the hallway

  2. Kaitlyn Chana

    I’ve seen a glimpse of how animal-assisted therapy has allowed children to meet their physical therapy milestones. Watching Adair Galankski help a child reach some clinical goals by having them stretch their arm to throw a “hedgehog toy” to Bailey and Bailey go retrieve it was a tangible way this child worked on motor skills involving movement. It’s remarkable to see the Pawsitive Play Program impact the lives of our patients and their families!

  3. Michelle Lawson

    We are so grateful for your unwavering support of the Pawsitive Play program. The clinical skill of our child life specialists alongside their canine companions make a positive impact on our patients and their families during their hospital journey and create memories for a lifetime. It’s a connection like no other and we are proud to have these outstanding employees on our team!

  4. Jeanette McMullen

    I and my daughter have unexpectedly benefited from the Pawsitive Play program. I only ever needed one service line at TCH, which is the same service line that brought me to become an employee here in 2015. With a recent hospitalization and new diagnosis for my child, we suddenly are in the throes of multiple service line needs. Pawsitive Play during our hospital stay was very much needed – from my daughter missing her four dogs at home for five days as well as me just needing some time to relax from the stressful situation with a friendly puppy dog. Thank you for supporting such a valuable and important part of “normalcy” for children. We love you Cohen!!!! (and of course CJ :-))

  5. Frank Stowell

    Happy International Dog Day! It is ALWAYS a gift to see our therapy dogs and their handlers no matter where the sighting takes place. One time I was taking my dog to the groomer and I see a beautiful golden retriever in the front reception area. I look at the canine and said, “Is that Elsa?!?!” The receptionist smiled and said, “Yes! How did you know?” I answered by saying, “Elsa is my colleague and we both work at Texas Children’s Hospital.” Elsa was out of uniform and off the clock so I was able to spend some quality time petting and hugging her which did not my make my own female canine too happy. 🙂

    This program has been such a PAWsitive addition to our mission and has been embraced by many. One day when I was riding on the shuttle, Robert Abadie – the shuttle bus driver, pulled out his wallet, handed me his cash and said, “I would like to give this donation to support the therapy dog program.” It was a very touching gesture and greatly appreciated contribution.

  6. Paige Schulz

    Happy International Dog Day to this incredible team! The handlers are pioneers for the animal assisted program at Texas Children’s, and are leading innovation in this space nationally as our Child Life team has been doing in the discipline for nearly 50 years!

  7. Eva Alcorn

    Happy Intentional Dog Day to our favorite four-legged employees. As a dog lover and owner (Sandy & Champ) I am super proud that I get to work for a company that understands the need and care enough to make it happen! We appreciate the Pawsitive Play Program at Texas Children’s and we are forever grateful for Mr. Mark Wallace and the visionary leader he has been and continues to be.

    Proud Employee

  8. Rebekka Kearns

    Very thankful for this program and how it has grown! It is so needed and the patients grow from it! (and many thanks to Mr. and especially Mrs. Wallace for their total support of the program)

  9. Lucy Fernandez

    The Pawsitive Play Program is a Great Blessing to our patients! I am a Dog lover and own 2 of my own Violet and Penny. True service with the Heart by our Furry Friends.

  10. Catherine Zdunkewicz

    Happy International Dog Day! I am a big dog person and I even had my wedding portrait taken with my dog (we were a package deal.)
    I have been lucky to witness not only the growth of the Pawsitive Play Program but the amazing work the canines do to provide support and comfort to our patients and their families.
    When Pinto comes for his weekly “Dog Group” in the Library, we are jammed to the gills. This 30 minutes watching patients get their pats and pictures is a highlight every week. It also allows those present to talk about the animals they have at home and are missing. Even when there isn’t a real dog, we still have Clifford the Big Red Dog to welcome visitors to the library.

  11. Bridal Wilson

    I am a huge dog person I have a puppy named Calix he is a beautiful Maltipoo.
    I am happy TCH has a day for doggies it makes dog moms like me proud and happy to work for such an amazing organization.

  12. Clayton Ethridge, TCH BH Support Team

    My dog Pepper is on her way to completing her therapy dog training through her CGC program. I would love to see her be a part of an amazing program like Pawsitive play at TCH! She brings me so much joy and i cant wait to share that happiness with others!

  13. Jonathan King

    Pawsitive Play is truly an incredible program! I have been able to see firsthand the impact this program makes on patients and their families. I am so grateful for the joy that Pawsitive Play brings to TCH!

  14. Courtney Pawlik

    I have so much love for the Pawsitive Play Team! I am a huge dog person – I have 3 dogs (Adri, Lyla & Clare) who provide unconditional love and happiness. When I spent time with Adair and Bailey, the happiness and smiles projected from patients, families, and staff were magical. My favorite memory is when we visited a patient and her mom, where I experienced hearing heartfelt stories, shared laughter, and, of course, lots of pets for Bailey. It is very apparent Adair and Bailey are a dream team who make the hospital feel like a home away from home for the patients, families, and staff. Through some of the hardest times, the Pawsitive Play Team makes things a little brighter. Thank you for all the joy you share!

  15. Ciara Sanchez

    Happy International Dog Day! I had the opportunity to shadow Adair Galanski and Bailey in action, and it was truly incredible to witness this dynamic duo not only improving patient care but also supporting the PICU staff through some tough days, bringing positivity and comfort to the entire team.

  16. Kaitie Virola

    We are so lucky to have Pluto and Hanna come visit our dialysis patients during their treatments. They bring so much joy and comfort to our patient’s and their families. I’ve seen first hand how they support the kiddos and help to provide a comforting atmosphere. And on hard days, Pluto and Hanna do double the work to support our staff. Thank you for all you do! Happy International Dog Day!

  17. Ida Benavides

    Happy International Dog Day! I am a HUGE dog person and owner of 7 adorable dogs myself. I absolutely love reading about our Pawsitive Play Team and all the smiles they bring to our patients! I wish they could come to The Centers for Children & Women-Greenspoint and Southwest to meet our patients and staff here as well!

  18. Allyson LaFave

    We are big dog lovers in our family and I know that coming home every day to our two furry family members, Roxi (German Shepherd mix) and Penny (Lab/Retriever mix), just seems to make everything ok! They make the bad days good and the good days great! I l love seeing my fur colleagues out and about in the hospitals, doing what they do best! They have such a pawsitive impact on our young patients, as well as all the families and staff that they come into contact with. The “Furry Five” and their hoomans, are indeed the dream team!

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