Facility Dog at Children’s Hospital Helps Kids Feel Better

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
A beautiful Golden Retriever named Kaia is stealing hearts while she’s helping healing children at the Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Kaia, the lovable, furry Facility dog has been professionally trained through Canine Assistants in Alpharetta, Georgia to serve the Children’s Hospital team in their Child Life Division. A facility dog is different from a therapy dog, though many of the benefits of both often overlap.

Facility dogs are trained differently from therapy dogs, and give very specific interventions and assistance to their handlers and the medical staff, such as showing children how to be still on the CT scan table before the procedure. Kaia of course will give a calming and loving presence to all the children she assists, but make no mistake, she’s a full-time working gal. (Who, of course, gets breaks for potty breaks and naps!)

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Kaia’s primary handler is Ashley Kane, the Child Life Manager, and Alicia Cesare, a Child Life Specialist in pediatric radiology also helps handle Kaia. Her main job is to support Ashley’s and Alicia’s efforts with pediatric patients in radiology and oncology, but don’t worry–Kaia’s safety is paramount and she will not ever be anywhere there is risk of radiation. Her main function is to help a child adjust to the situation and position he or she will need for the procedure and then to return once the testing is complete for some extra loving attention.

Kaia was specifically (and responsibly) bred and raised to be a facility dog and both she and her handlers went through extensive training specifically to be used in facilities with children’s hospitals. When Kaia is off-duty, she lives a regular life with Ashley and enjoys the perks of being a full-time pet too!

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Children’s Hospital Penn State is the first children’s hospital in Pennsylvania to have a full-time employed facility dog, and Canine Assistants generously donated the $22,000 it cost to train, vaccinate and give veterinary care to a facility dog before it is placed. Other costs for Kaia, like bedding, toys, food and care have been sponsored for two years by Spirit Halloween as part of their Spirit of Children Initiative, and as adorable as she is, it’s clear that Kaia won’t be lacking in love and affection either.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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