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Huntsville Hospital Foundation announces third facility dog to expand Canines for Coping at Huntsville Hospital

Program expansion made possible by community donations

Huntsville Hospital Foundation announces third facility dog to expand Canines for Coping at Huntsville Hospital
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Huntsville Hospital Foundation (HHF) and the Huntsville Hospital Health System have seen improved patient outcomes and overwhelmingly positive feedback since launching the Canines for Coping facility dog program in 2019. That’s why, thanks to generous community donations, HHF is funding a third dog to expand the program’s reach and impact.

The third dog has been secured through Service Dogs Alabama, and is expected to start seeing patients in April 2022. The new pup and its handler, Angel Utt, LMSW (Licensed Master of Social Work), will primarily serve palliative care patients through Huntsville Hospital and also Caring for Life’s inpatient hospice facility. Together they will provide comfort and psychosocial support to chronic and seriously ill patients and their families throughout treatment, as well as during end-of-life care.

Utt has almost 20 years of clinical experience, most recently as a coordinator for The Caring House, providing grief support, education, and resources to children, families, and caregivers.

“Working alongside Hospice Family Care, I have felt honored to be allowed to sit with families during very difficult and vulnerable times, helping them navigate and try to make sense of what’s happening in their world,” Utt said. “Now, thanks to the Canines for Coping program and HHF, I get to combine my passion for helping people and my love of dogs. Alongside my new partner, we will provide much-needed mental and emotional support during a patient’s hospital stay and will assist in certain identified medical goals using animal-assisted therapy. I cannot think of a more meaningful way for this program to grow and serve our community.”

The donor-funded Canines for Coping program currently consists of two professionally trained facility dogs at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children – Asteroid and Orbit. Because of their extensive training at a service dog institution, the golden retrievers are able to deliver services based on medical goals, be present during procedures and assist with bereavement.

“The Canines for Coping program has been an incredible asset to our hospital and pediatric patients,” said Sarah Savage-Jones, president of Huntsville Hospital Foundation. “Not only do they add normalcy and warmth to the hospital setting, but they also improve outcomes like increased healing and decreased anxiety. To provide just a little bit of joy and quality of life during times of sadness and uncertainty is such a gift, and we are honored to work with donors to make this possible for our patients and caregivers.”

The third dog and related expenses will be covered in part by the Lifesaver Club, Huntsville Hospital’s employee giving program. Another important fundraiser for the program is the 2022 Huntsville Classic, featuring Jake Owen on May 7 at Huntsville’s new Orion Amphitheater. This event will raise essential funding to help sustain the program at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children and to continue growing to serve other patient populations. To learn more or to buy tickets to the Huntsville Classic concert, 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. Our Canines for Coping facility dogs Asteroid and Orbit 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, Asteroid and Orbit are able to provide services based on medical goals, can be present during procedures and can assist with bereavement. Canines for Coping is fully funded by Huntsville Hospital Foundation through the Lifesaver Club hospital employee giving club, generous grant funding from PetSmart Charities, and other community donations. The program is expanding to add a third dog in April 2022. 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 $4 million in funding for hospital needs each year. For more information, visit