The four-legged medical staff at Norton Children’s facilities is growing, thanks to generous community support.
Yarie, a 2-year-old golden Lab cross, joined Norton Healthcare’s Heel, Dog, Heal program in January. She works in the “Just for Kids” Critical Care Center at Norton Children’s Hospital. Yarie joined current children’s facility dogs Rosa, Holly and Doc.
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. 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. “We currently have around 400 requests for facility dog visits every month.”
And 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 available is helpful in many ways.”
The hospital staff also is benefiting.
“The caregivers unfortunately have to deal with a lot of situations that are stressful and sometimes sad,” Heather said. “A few minutes with a dog can help relieve stress or anxiety.”
Funding for Yarie came from proceeds from the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation’s 2019 Bourbon & Bowties™event. An additional facility dog will join Norton Children’s Hospital thanks to PetSmart Charities, which provided a $50,000 gift. This will bring the total number of dogs in the systemwide Heel, Dog, Heal program to 10.
Support Heel, Dog, Heal
Your donation can help ensure facility dogs remain available at Norton Children’s facilities.
“We’re grateful to the community and 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. “These gifts allow even more children and families to receive additional help to calm their fears, relieve anxiety and heal.”
A gift from the Independent Pilots Association (IPA) Foundation established the facility dog program, with support from the Sam Swope Family Foundation, Dunbar Foundation Inc., Unified Technologies, North Harrison Elementary School and Barbie Meyers. Norton Healthcare’s adult-service locations have four facility dogs on staff, which were made possible by a generous gift from Edie Nixon.
Heel, Dog, Heal partners with Paws With Purpose, a Louisville-based organization that trains assistance dogs for children and adults with special needs. Six facility dogs are graduates of Paws With Purpose.