Dunkin joins Norton Children’s Hospital Emergency Department

Dunkin joins a team of nine other facility dogs at Norton Healthcare adult and pediatric facilities.

Thanks to the generous support of PetSmart Charities, there’s a new furry staff member working in the emergency department at Norton Children’s Hospital.

Dunkin, a highly-trained facility dog, and his handler, Cami Vereschagin, certified child life specialist, are now seeing patients.

“We find that these facility dogs promote positive coping for patients and their families and also for staff,” Cami said.

Dunkin joins a team of nine other facility dogs at Norton Healthcare adult and pediatric facilities. Each dog works with its own handler.

According to Cami, patients and families are sometimes surprised by having a four-legged visitor, but often end up giving Dunkin a hug and a smile.

Support Heel, Dog, Heal

Your donation can help ensure facility dogs remain available at Norton Children’s facilities.


Research shows that facility dogs provide many benefits for patients and families. Sometimes it’s providing emotional comfort by lying at the foot of a child’s hospital bed or sitting by their side before a procedure. Other times they’re helping with physical recovery by encouraging kids to get out of bed, walk and play.

Facility dogs not only offer comfort but provide children with an outlet to verbalize their fears,” said Heather Stohr, manager of child life therapy at Norton Children’s Hospital.

The hospital staff also is benefiting.

“The caregivers unfortunately have to deal with a lot of situations that are sad and even scary,” Heather said. “A few minutes with a dog can help relieve stress or anxiety.”

Norton Healthcare’s Heel, Dog, Heal facility dog program is funded through the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation and Norton Healthcare Foundation entirely through community support.

“As an organization dedicated to supporting pets and the people who love them, PetSmart Charities is thrilled to help Norton Children’s Hospital expand the Heel, Dog, Heal program,” said Kelly Balthazor, regional relationship manager at the national charity. “Children and pets often share a special bond, and we’re happy to lend our support to this program that promotes the healing power of pets and provides a healthy diversion from the usual hospital routine.”

“We’re grateful to PetSmart Charities for stepping up to help us expand a program that has been so beneficial,” said Lynnie Meyer, Ed.D., R.N., CFRE, senior vice president and chief development officer, Norton Healthcare. “The addition of Dunkin will allow even more children and families to receive additional help to calm their fears, relieve anxiety and heal.”