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Special Delivery! The Healing Pups Program Spreads “Puppy Love” at BMC

Special Delivery! The Healing Pups Program Spreads “Puppy Love” at BMC


A special delivery will be made to the children in the pediatric inpatient unit at BMC this week! “Paw delivered” by canine members of the Healing Pups team and their handlers, patients will receive personalized Valentine’s Day cards featuring the dogs’ faces.

Launched in 2012 with two dogs, the Healing Pups program at BMC provides in-hospital comfort to patients and families going through trauma and illness. Today, the program has grown to seven dogs, including its newest member, Charlie, a three-year old Boston terrier.

“The best part of visiting the pediatric unit is seeing (and hearing) the surprise of patients when they realize that a dog is present. Often you hear ‘Mommy…look…a doggy!’ coming from a room down the hall,” said Sheryl Katzanek, Director of Patient Advocacy and handler to Healing Pups dog, Riley. “The kids are so used to having “official” looking people—doctors and nurses—come into the room that seeing a dog helps to normalize the hospitalization as well as create a nice diversion.” 

Of the seven current dogs, two were raised to be therapy dogs through the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS), an organization that provides independence to people who are deaf or have a disability through the use of canine assistance. The other five dogs are people’s pets who have passed the Therapy Dog International (TDI) test.

“Some of the best encounters have been with kids who are at first tentative about saying hello to the dogs, but then slowly approach them and ultimately, end up petting the dog and asking for them to return,” said Katzanek. “The dogs also bring smiles to the hard working staff and best of all—the hard working staff bring treats for the dogs!”