New facility dog to join Norton Children’s team thanks to PetSmart Charities

Will bring program total to nine dogs; help expand capacity

The four-legged medical staff at Norton Children’s Hospital will soon have a new co-worker. PetSmart Charities Inc. has provided a $50,000 gift to the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation to add a facility dog to Norton Healthcare’s Heel, Dog, Heal team in spring 2020. This will bring the number of dogs in the systemwide program to nine.

Research shows that having full-time facility dogs has 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. At other times the dogs help 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. “We currently have around 400 requests for facility dog visits every month, yet our current three dogs only can see around 100 children a month.”

The requests continue to increase. One of the newer ways the furry employees are assisting is helping children overcome a fear of dogs.

“I’ve had parents request that their child have a positive experience with a dog after a negative encounter,” Heather said. “Having the dogs here is helpful in many ways.”

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.”

“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.”

You can help support programs like Heel, Dog, Heal by making a donation to the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.

“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. “This gift will allow even more children and families to receive additional help to calm their fears, relieve anxiety and heal.”

A generous gift from the Independent Pilots Association (IPA) Foundation established the facility dog program, with additional support given from the Sam Swope Family Foundation, Dunbar Foundation Inc., Unified Technologies, North Harrison Elementary School, Barbie Meyers and Bourbon & BowtiesTM. Norton Healthcare’s adult-service locations also have facility dogs on staff, which were made possible by a generous gift from Edie Nixon.