Facility dogs aren’t like pet dogs. From the moment they are born, they are shaped for the important work they do. These four-legged friends offer patients social contact, reduce stress, and stimulate senses through animal-assisted therapy.
Some children at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital may be anxious about treatment. Puggle and Huckleberry are trained to work with their humans in Child Life to help patients cope with receiving treatment and being in the hospital.
The Paws at Play program aims to distract patients from their illness, symptoms, pain and anxiety. Our facilty dogs offer unconditional love and acceptance. They also motivate and support patients through social interaction.
About our dogs
Huckleberry and Puggle are full-time hospital employees in the Child Life program. The dogs work alongside Child Life specialists to provide goal-directed interventions for patients. Huckleberry and Puggle each received more than 18 months of training before starting their roles at St. Jude. Their handlers also received special training to work with the dogs in the hospital.
Puggle works alongside primary handler, Brittany Reed, HMBA, CCLS. He also spends time with his backup handler, Ashley Carr, CCLS. Huckleberry see patients with his primary handler, Shandra Taylor, MS, CCLS. Both dogs serve many areas in the hospital, both inpatient and outpatient.
Our Paws at Play team accepts referrals and consults and coordinates with the multi-disciplinary patient care team to prioritize how to integrate interventions into patients’ schedules day by day.
Just like any other employee, the dogs have ID badges and enjoy lunch breaks. They play with toys and each other throughout their work week. To ensure they look their best for the job, they are well-groomed and bathed at least once a week. The dogs live at their primary handlers’ houses. When Puggle and Huckleberry are not at work, they relax and play with other members of the handlers’ families. During their time off, the dogs enjoy playing ball, going on hikes, eating their favorite snacks and snuggling on the couch.
Paws at Play and Doggy Daze
The Child Life Department organizes two programs that connect patients with dogs: Paws at Play and Doggy Daze. Each helps St. Jude patients in a different way.
Paws at Play facility dogs are certified trained service dogs and are official hospital employees. Their job is to help patients achieve specific goals. Sessions with these dogs are by appointment and are an integral part of the patient’s treatment process. Huckleberry and Puggle, the Paws at Play dogs, wear green service vests and ID badges to work.
Doggy Daze dogs are carefully screened therapy dogs that simply provide comfort and affection to patients and their families at scheduled volunteer shifts. These volunteer dogs wear green bandannas when visiting. Sessions with these dogs are brief and may include several patients at once.
What is a facility dog? (Like the Paws at Play dogs)
Facility dogs are trained service dogs, who are specially certified to perform animal-assisted therapy for patients and families at hospitals.
What is a service dog?
Service dogs are specially trained to help perform tasks to ease their handlers’ disabilities. These dogs help their handlers gain independence and remain safe. Service dogs should not be petted, as this could distract them from their important work.
What is a therapy dog?
A therapy dog is certified to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals. Therapy dogs are not service animals.
What do the facility dogs do?
The facility dogs help children in many ways. They may:
- Offer support during procedures
- Help kids comply with taking medicines
- Motivate patients to move after surgery or during long hospital stays
- Take part in mock-scanner sessions to reduce sedation
- Help with end-of-life needs
How many patients will the dogs see each day?
A facility dog will see about four to six patients a day. When not with patients, the dog is given rest time.
How do I make an appointment for a facility dog?
Contact Child Life or reach out to the Paws at Play team at firstname.lastname@example.org. The dogs are available for a limited number of referrals each day. They meet the needs of other areas as time permits. Dogs visit specific patients based on handler assessments and clinical staff consults. Unfortunately, the facility dogs are unable to visit patients with isolation precautions.
What if my child is allergic or has a fear of dogs?
When one of the dogs is in your area, please let the handler know your child is allergic. The handler will work to avoid contact with those who have fears or allergies.
Can I pet the dogs?
Puggle and Huckleberry enjoy love and affection from everyone. Please ask permission first from the handler rather than approaching the dog. Clean your hands with alcohol or wash with soap and water before and after touching a facility dog.
Can I walk a facility dog?
No, handlers must ensure that facility dogs are leashed and under their direct control while on the St. Jude campus, including times when the dogs are not working.