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Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children Welcomes New Facility Dog

Canines for Coping expansion possible thanks to community donations

Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children Welcomes New Facility Dog
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It's the Golden era at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children! Today, the hospital introduced its third Golden Retriever facility dog, Paxton. Paxton is the newest member of Huntsville Hospital’s Canines for Coping facility dog program, which is fully funded by donations to Huntsville Hospital Foundation (HHF).

The two-year-old facility dog is a recent graduate of the world-class training program at California-based Guide Dogs of America - Tender Loving Canines, and now works at HHW&C 40 hours per week. Paxton’s training combines with the expertise of his handler to help patients cope, heal and achieve treatment goals in the Pediatric Surgery Pre-Op, Radiology, Outpatient Pediatric Therapy and Antepartum units.

“Paxton’s unique commands and intuition will help patients of all ages, every single day,” said Paxton’s handler Megan Banks, Certified Child Life Specialist. “He can do everything from helping patients be more stable and safe as they get up and get moving, to modeling how to do a procedure, to simply proving a needed cuddle for reduced anxiety. Paxton and our entire Canines for Coping team are incredible tools as we work to help our patients and care teams meet their medical goals.”

Since launching with its first facility dog, Asteroid, in 2019, the Canines for Coping program has tracked consistently positive patient outcomes including increased healing, decreased anxiety, improved mood and reduced blood pressure. Asteroid was the first hospital facility dog in the state of Alabama, and with this addition of Paxton, she has been “promoted” to Chief Dog Officer. Asteroid and her handler, Certified Child Life Specialist Stefani Williams, will now exclusively focus on the needs of HH Health team members and managing the Canines for Coping program.

This growth and the addition of Paxton was possible, in part, thanks to the generosity of Madison County couple Kathi and Norm Tew. Their love of animals and passion for helping our community inspired the gift.

“We are deeply appreciative of the Tews for believing in the healing and positive power of these dogs in our hospitals,” said Sarah Savage-Jones, HHF president. “We continuously hear incredible stories of connection and improved patient outcomes. This program is powered by philanthropy and would not be possible without our community.”

Individuals can contribute to the program’s growth and needs by becoming Pet Pals! Each donation helps other patients have access to the special care and joy these dogs provide. Pet Pal donors receive a quarterly e-newsletter, early access to merchandise sales, an invitation to an exclusive annual meet and greet, and more. To learn more or give, please visit



About Canines for Coping
Canines for Coping is a program of Huntsville Hospital Foundation that provides joy and emotional support to pediatric and adult patients at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children, Huntsville Hospital and Madison Hospital. Canines for Coping facility dogs Asteroid, Orbit, Vivian, Apple and Paxton are full-time employees and 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, all four dogs are able to provide services based on medical goals, can be present during procedures and can assist with bereavement. Canines for Coping is funded by Huntsville Hospital Foundation through community donations. To give in support of this meaningful program, visit

About Huntsville Hospital Foundation
Huntsville Hospital Foundation exists to provide lifesaving technology and meaningful programs that improve patient lives. The Foundation raises essential funding for not-for-profit Huntsville Hospital, Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children, and Madison Hospital through individual and corporate donations, providing more than $6 million in funding for hospital needs each year. For more information, visit