Canines for Coping expansion possible thanks to local Madison couple
Madison Hospital’s newest employee has four legs, plays fetch and answers to the name of Apple. Apple’s work is about way more than cuddles, however. The new facility dog works in the hospital with her handler 40 hours per week to meet the emotional and medical needs of pediatric and adult patients.
Apple, a black Labrador, is part of Huntsville Hospital’s Canines for Coping facility dog program and is funded by donations to Huntsville Hospital Foundation (HHF). HHF and the Huntsville Hospital Health System have tracked improved patient outcomes and overwhelmingly positive feedback since launching Canines for Coping in 2019 at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. This addition expands the program’s reach and impact to the city of Madison.
The new dog was secured through Guide Dogs of America-Tender Loving Canines in California, and started serving patients and staff earlier this month. Because of her extensive training from birth, Apple is able to deliver services based on medical goals, be present during procedures and assist with bereavement. Results include increased healing, decreased anxiety, improved mood and reduced blood pressure.
Hospital leadership anticipate the program to be especially beneficial for youth seeking mental health care and adult patients with dementia and Alzheimer's. That’s because Apple’s full-time handler, Joe Taylor, MS and LPT (licensed psychological technician), has 30 years of experience working with patients and families affected by psychiatric disorders, as well as neuropsychological conditions such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.
“We have been wanting to add Canines for Coping to our hospital for a long time, and I cannot think of a more perfect duo for the role than Joe and Apple,” said Mary Lynne Wright, president of Madison Hospital. “They are expertly trained for this specialized work and are filling a growing, critical need. We are excited to see the many incredible ways they will help patients of all ages, and also support our health care heroes. I am deeply grateful for the Foundation donors who are making this program possible for our hospital and community.”
The addition of Madison Hospital’s new dog was made possible by the generosity of one Madison couple through a memorial gift to HHF. Sheryl and Pat Thomason lost their son unexpectedly in 2022. They chose this special project as a way to memorialize Patrick, who loved dogs. The Thomasons hope the comfort Apple provides will help many recover or deal with their sickness in a more positive way.
“After looking into many different charitable organizations, when the opportunity to provide the dog for the Madison Hospital and knowing Patrick’s love of dogs, this was an easy decision for us,” Pat said. “Just knowing how a facility dog can brighten the day and bring joy for everybody it comes into contact with is a very exciting opportunity. We know Patrick would love this and would support this 100 percent.”
Other ongoing expenses will rely on community donations to sustain the program. These will be covered, in part, by Madison Hospital employees through the Lifesaver Club employee giving program, a donation from Window World of Huntsville, and an approved appropriation from the Madison City Council.
Individuals can contribute to the program’s growth and needs by becoming a Pet Pal! To learn more or donate, visit www.huntsvillehospitalfoundation.org/caninesforcoping.
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 and Apple 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 huntsvillehospitalfoundation.org.
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 huntsvillehospitalfoundation.org.