I have been involved in a program called "Pet Pals" through the UW Vet School in conjunction with the Children's Hospital. My dog Maddie and I go to the Children's hospital twice a month and visit with the kids. At first, I wasn't sure if I would be able to handle seeing the sick children and was a little wary... but it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done!
All the dogs in Pet Pals have to go through an intensive screening process. Their behavior, demeanor, and interaction with children are all tested. Fortunately for me, Maddie passed with flying colors and was accepted into the program in 2007.
Maddie, almost 7, is our sweet Golden Retriever we rescued in 2005.
Last week, one of the patient's parents was telling me that their son had two dogs at home who slept on his bed. Being in the hospital was difficult for him because he was used to having his pups with him. After our visit, I heard his dad ask him, "See? Do you feel better? Aren't you glad you came?" You could see the change on the boy's face- he looked happy and was smiling.
Sometimes Maddie will lay down on the floor and kids will lay with her. They will put their arms around her, hug her, and just close their eyes, maybe even take a little nap with her.
It's the small things like this that can really make a difference.