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Therapy Dog Joins Children's Hospital Team

Posted: 12/7/2017

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Sick and injured children now have the comfort of a furry friend during visits to The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart. A two-year-old female golden retriever named Sprout has recently joined The Children’s Hospital team as a fully trained and certified facility dog.

Sprout comes to Pensacola from Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization based in Milton, Georgia, that trains and provides service dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs. In order to bring Sprout to The Children’s Hospital, her primary handler, child life specialist Julia Humphries, has received specialized training through Canine Assistants.

Wearing her service-dog vest at all times, Sprout works with patients and families in the Pediatric Infusion Center, the outpatient pediatric hematology/oncology office and on the inpatient floors of the Children’s Hospital.

“In the brief time since Sprout arrived, she’s already brought significant comfort, happiness and motivation to our patients and families,” said Humphries. “For many patients, playing with a dog can help make the hospital feel more like home. Sprout’s presence might encourage a child to go for a walk, socialize with others or participate in therapies. Research has shown that dogs can reduce stress and help make people feel better both emotionally and physically. One study has even shown that fifteen minutes of working with a dog reduces a child’s pain at a level comparable to an adult taking a dose of acetaminophen. For some children, there’s no better medicine or treatment that compares to snuggling in bed with a warm, fluffy friend.”

Sprout is frequently bathed, via in-kind support from a local groomer, Shampoochies, and also has spot clean-ups throughout the day as needed.

Humphries brings Sprout to work each morning, Monday through Friday, and takes her home at the end of the work day. When not at work, Sprout lives like a normal pet, relaxing and playing with Humphries at her home. When working, Sprout is given regular trips outside and has a quiet space to herself in The Children’s Hospital.

“It’s really amazing to see Sprout in action," said Humphries.  “Whether Sprout is bringing a smile to a teenager’s face while lying next to them, being a source of strength and comfort to a child who is scared during the placement of an IV, or being given the grand tour of the toy shelves in the playroom by a child who is in need of distraction from a long day of therapy, she is always ready to meet our children exactly where they are in any given moment.  Sprout also provides love and support to our wonderful and dedicated staff when they are in need.”

To support programs like this that improve the experience of Children’s Hospital patients, please call the Sacred Heart Foundation at 850-416-4660 or visit sacred-heart.org/foundation.

The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart is a 117-bed facility that serves as the only children’s hospital in Northwest Florida. The Children’s Hospital offers a wide range of services to meet all of a child’s medical needs, from a pediatric emergency room and neonatal intensive care unit to pediatric intensive care, cancer care, rehabilitation and a medical staff of more than 120 board-certified physicians across 29 pediatric specialties. The Children’s Hospital provides quality, compassionate care to children, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay. For more information about the services available at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart, visit www.sacred-heart.org/childrenshospital.

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