In January of 2014, Cook Children’s Medical Center welcomed two employees who would quickly win the hearts of all the patients, families, and staff at the large free-standing children’s hospital. Golden Retriever siblings Ralph Lauren and Chanel were just about to turn 2 years old when they began the journey of a lifetime.
Speaking of a life journey, a year and a half later Cook Children’s welcomed two more full-time golden retrievers, Journey and Kitty.
And in 2017, Lulu joined the pack.
All five of these fabulous dogs received training at Canine Assistants in Georgia before meeting their handlers (full-time hospital employees). At the start of their employment, they were given employee badges and immediately started taking care of not only patients, but staff as well.
For the past four years, the Sit…Stay…PLAY (SSP) dogs have worked 40 hours a week, retiring to their handlers’ homes at the end of the day to be “regular dogs” until it was time to suit up again.
Science tells us that not only do dogs make us generally happier and more active, but interacting with dogs can actually increase our immune systems, lower blood pressure, and decrease cortisol (a stress hormone). Every day, the SSP dogs put that science to work. In a single day, this team does everything from offering a paw to squeeze during a needle poke to lying gently and quietly with a child who is coming to the last moments of their life. They give kids a reason to get up and move after a major surgery and challenge them to medicine-taking races.
When kids are scared, lonely, or unsure, our dogs are there as a soft and calm presence. They turn a sterile, invasive environment into one that feels a lot more like home.
Perhaps the biggest gift from our dogs is the simple fact that they love these kids and families unconditionally. They don’t notice anything different about a child who is sick or injured, they just see a potential friend and someone to love. The lack of judgement between a child and a dog is truly priceless.
To learn more about Sit…Stay…PLAY, visit us at our website.
Kizzy Marco, CCLS
Facility Dog Program Coordinator
Cook Children’s Medical Center
Fort Worth, TX
Kizzy Marco grew up in Chicago and is a graduate of the University of Iowa. She has loved dogs her whole life, starting with the Cairn Terrier her family got when she was 5 years old (she wanted to name him StarBright, which her siblings still mock to this day). Now Kizzy has her dream job which is improving outcomes for hospitalized kids with the help of her Golden Retriever, Ralph Lauren.