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!