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