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The Canines for Coping facility dog program helps patients and families cope with their hospital experience. Our dogs are trained from birth to work in the hospital and are fully prepared for all they will encounter during their daily work.

Meet the team!

Golden Retrievers Asteroid and Orbit and Labradoodle Shaggy make up the Huntsville Hospital Foundation funded Canines for Coping program. All three dogs are full-time hospital employees – complete with an employee badge and business card! They work in the hospital with their handlers 40 hours per week, with time allowed for downtime, naps and walks. Because they are professionally trained service dogs, Asteroid, Orbit and Shaggy are able to provide services based on medical goals, can be present during procedures and can assist with bereavement.

Follow their adventures on Instagram at @HH_CaninesforCoping!

It’s about more than snuggles …

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.

All three dogs have proven evidence-based results:

  • Improved psychosocial functioning and mood

  • Increased healing, relaxation and self-confidence

  • Decreased anxiety and perception of pain

  • Reduced blood pressure and heart rate

Canines for Coping is 100% donor funded!

Canines for Coping is funded by the Foundation's Lifesaver Club hospital employee giving club, a generous grant from PetSmart Charities and donations from other generous community partners.

Canines for Coping by the numbers …


patient encounters in a year


pounds of dog food eaten each year


staff members received comforting cuddles


treats eaten each month


toys enjoyed & destroyed every month

Your gift will help other patients have access to the special care and joy these dogs provide. Pet Pals receive:

  • Quarterly updates from Asteroid, Orbit or Shaggy

  • An exclusive invite to their birthday paw-ty

  • Other special surprises

Departments currently served

Our facility dogs and their handlers work with the multidisciplinary team to meet medical goals and provide therapeutic interventions to promote positive coping.

  • Pediatric Radiology
  • Pediatric Surgery
  • Outpatient Pediatric Therapy
  • Antepartum
  • General Pediatrics
  • St. Jude Affiliate Clinic
  • Pediatric Emergency Department
  • Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
  • Palliative Care
  • Inpatient Hospice
“I love helping patients when they're feeling unsure or afraid. I get to show them how things work here at the hospital so they aren't afraid any more.”