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Dogs Heal. Therapy Dogs in Children's Hospitals

Updated on March 1, 2014

Doggy Love.

When a beautiful dog approaches the hospital bed, the child just smiles. While stroking the dog's soft head, that smile spreads around the room, infectious. The focus switches from medical charts and beeping machines to the furry, four legged creature eagerly wagging his tail.

Finally the hospital visit is over and life has returned to a regular routine. Reflecting upon that painful time, one happy memory will not fade-that soft, furry dog. You can remember every detail about the therapy dog who visited the hospital and brought smiles and warmth to a cold, raw experience.

My parents bring their therapy dogs to children's hospitals every week, returning with amazing stories about very sick kids who sit up, stand up, and smile. Those sick kids ask when the dogs will visit again. They are distracted from the other hospital experiences and motivated by the positive energy of the therapy dogs.

You can train your dog to be a therapy dog. You can also call a therapy dog center to arrange a hospital visit.

Picture Courtesy of

Therapy Dogs International - A non-profit organization


If you are interested in having your dog tested to become a therapy dog, or if you would like to help the organization in another way, click on the picture. It is a link to the TDI website.

Photo: TDI

Don't Worry, Pet a Dog.

"Simply petting a dog can decrease levels of stress hormones, regulate breathing, and lower blood pressure. Research also has shown that petting releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and affection, in both the dog and the human."

Brian Hare, director of Duke University's Canine Cognition Center

Nester and Josh
Nester and Josh

My Two Favorite Therapy Dogs

Josh and Nester

Josh is a huge Newfoundland. He is the handsome guy in my bio picture. Josh is so tall that his head can lie on the hospital bed without having to lean up. Most Newfoundlands are all black. Josh is a Landseer, which means he has some St. Bernard mixed in. He's hairy, and slobbery. People either love him right away- or not at all.

Nester is a yellow lab who was my parents' guide dog puppy. Unfortunately, he didn't pass the last part of his guide dog test. It was just too loud.

For the test, a huge motorcycle blew by while he sat at the corner. He was supposed to sit still. Ah shoot, I can't even do that. Those motorcycles make me jump, cover my ears, and grind my teeth.

Well, happy ending- Nester got to come "home" to his puppy raisers- who happen to be my parents! Now Nester and Josh are buddies, working together as therapy dogs at libraries and hospitals.

I know. I know. These dogs belong to my parents. ...But I love them too.

If you click on the picture above of Josh the Newfy and Nester the Lab, a link will take you to the "Southeastern Guide Dogs". My parents were puppy raisers for this non-profit organization. They have puppy training classes, community volunteer opportunities, and a great online gift shop.

Josh and Nester
Josh and Nester

Party Time!

Dogs Bring the Party to the Hospital

Therapy dogs are busy at the hospital during holiday season.

Of course dogs wear costumes and themed bandanas while on the job. There's the Valentine's Day red heart theme, reindeer outfits, pumpkin hats, and green all over for the St. Patty's Day Doggy Parade.

Before the dogs get dressed, they bathe, shampoo, and get hair-dried. If lucky, they get a pedicure too.

Those doggies look and smell just marvelous.

Photo: Josh and Nester

Shampoo and rinse.
Shampoo and rinse.

Shampoo with color please.

Two hours to get the hair done!

Every week Josh gets a shampoo with extra "Whiteners" to make him even more handsome. Grandpa takes him outside with the hose and lathers him up real good. Hey, it looks like Josh shrunk! With all that hair wet and matted, he looks downright skinny. Josh takes it like a man. Patiently getting rubbed, scrubbed, and rinsed. He only stops to shake about 3 times.

Ready for work!

my photo
my photo

Grandpa takes Josh to work every day. He has a complicated schedule. Josh visits two hospitals and the Ronald McDonald House. He also visits two libraries. A typical day involves visiting a hospital in the morning to cheer up sick kids. In the afternoon, he goes to the library so more kids can read to him with the "Read to Dogs" program. Oh, I forgot...Josh starts every day at 6am when Grandpa goes for his 3 mile walk. Grandma and Nester come too.

The Latest News from Josh

Hot off the press from my Dad (Josh's Handler)

September 14, 2013 At the Children's Hospital

"Okay, I have to write about what just happened recently with Josh. There is a young girl that was life-flighted by helicopter to the hospital the night before Josh and I were scheduled to visit. I saw her mother in the lobby the following morning and she told me how terrified she was during the flight, both from fear of the flight itself and in worry about her daughter. We had visited this girl several times before in the hospital, and the girl really likes Josh. But I didn't expect to see her on this visit after such a traumatic event.

As we were ready to go home, a nurse called me from a patient's room down the hall and said that someone wanted to see Josh. It was that little girl. She had overruled her doctor and insisted on seeing Josh. We couldn't go in her room because it was under positive pressure, but we sat on the floor in the hall as the girl wheeled her IV stand to the door and then sat down. She picked up one of Josh's huge paws and held it between her hands as she told us how great the helicopter flight was.

What a brave little girl. No wonder Josh loves her!"

October 4, 2013

The last entry was written by my Dad. He just called me to tell me about his little friend. That little girl who Josh was visiting almost every week for the last year was named Megan. She had Cystic Fibrosis, and she passed away a couple of days ago. Josh is going to her funeral tonight as a guest of honor. This will be his first time attending an event of this nature. I suppose it comes with the territory. Things like this happen when visiting children's hospitals. My thoughts are with Megan and her family and everyone who loved her. I never met her, but she gave so much happiness to my father and Josh with her sunny personality and kind disposition.

Life is fragile. Feeling thankful for my friends and family.

Cutest Retirement Party EVER. - The therapy dog, Levi, retires. He was Josh's friend.

The guest of honor is Levi, a loving Great Dane who has comforted many sick kids. Josh is in the video too.

Party for Levi - Josh's friend Levi, retires.

Levi, a gentle giant of a Great Dane, was retiring from therapy work. Josh and friends at the children's hospital had a big party. This video was on the local news. So cute.

Nuts! - Therapy Dogs Finds Nuts in Foods

I love this. Therapy dogs are just amazing. So neat that the parents were able to raise the money to help their daughter afford this dog.


Furry Therapists

"In situations like the Newtown shootings, it makes a lot of sense that dogs would be an effective form of comfort."

"When humans show us affection, it's quite a complicated thing that involves expectations and judgments, but with a dog, it's a very uncomplicated, nonchallenging interaction with no consequences. And if you've been through a hard time, it's lovely to have that."

-Psychologist Debbie Custance of Goldsmiths College, University of London."

Nat. Geographic, "Healing Power of Dogs"

Good Dog.

Is your dog well-trained?

See results

One dose of doggy please. - Is your dog like a therapist?


Does your dog bring you happiness?

See results

Therapy Dogs Visit Hospitals

Extra Special Training

Certified in Giving Love

Therapy dogs get a certificate with insurance when they pass a test from a special dog school called Therapy Dogs International. That certification allows them to go into schools, libraries and hospitals.

But many hospitals have their own application policies. For example, one hospital requires that handlers (owners) get blood tests. The handlers also need to get immunizations and a background check.

But wait, there's more. The applicant "shadows" another experienced dog handler- without his own dog. Next the applicant gets to take his own dog, but is still supervised while visiting hospital rooms. Finally (about a month has passed since getting the certificate), you have a fully credentialed hospital dog and handler. Phew.

Remember, these are all VOLUNTEERS. These people are dedicated.

Photo courtesy of

Click. Good Dog! - Clicker Training

Positive reinforcement with a click.

Therapy Dogs Help Vets with PTSD

These are recent articles about therapy dogs who are helping vets make the transition at home. The are amazing stories.

Hero Dogs - Dogs Help Disabled Veterans

Courtesy of Hero Dogs. Org
Courtesy of Hero Dogs. Org

This really cool organization is completely dependent on donations. Training dogs includes sending them to boarding school for intense training (after the puppy raisers) for up to two years. Yep. Gets pricey.

Check out the link by clicking on the picture. Go ahead, just click. Those Vets really appreciate it.

Would you like to have your own therapy dog?

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Dog Parks are also a great place to go. Grandview Park in SeaTac/Kent is a great dogpark in the South Sound area. They also have a biuletln board for such advertisements. If you don't mind going up to Seattle Magnuson Park is one of the best dog parks in the country. I'm sure there are South Sound people that go there. Otherwise, I would suggest pet stores such as Mud Bay, humane society shelters (sometimes people just go there to pet the dogs, some buy and when they do your advertisement will be the first one they see), and also vets in the area.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      When I injured my left knee before, my therapy was also my dog. That is why I was so saddened when he died. :-( I trained him thru videos that I've watched. And with a trainer once a week.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      5 years ago

      My dog is a real pain in the you know what but he makes me feel relaxed and happy. You know how they are. Thanks for this excellent lens - pinned to my dog board and out by g+ and linked to my own lens:

    • delia-delia profile image


      5 years ago

      This lens is should be a LOTD! I would love to have done this with my Maltese dog but she went to heaven and I never got another dog. I LOVE any kind of animal that can help someone feel good whether in hospital or old age home...we use to take our pony to my children's school for show and tell.... ha ha

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Me too. Heard there is a wait list though.

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @favored: I agree! Thanks for reading.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      Our dogs have been such a healing part of our lives and others. They even visited nursing homes with one of our cats. If anyone has a dog that can qualify as a therapy dog, I hope they go for it. The pup will bring more joy than you can ever imagine.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I would love to adopt a guide dog who didn't pass the test.

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @ChocolateLily: My Mom actually had to stop taking Nester, the yellow lab, to the hospital floors. It was just too much for him. Nester just visits the Ronald McDonald House and listens to kids read at the library. Isn't it amazing how dogs have sensitive personalities too? Every dog is so different, no matter what the breed.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I would love to! From my own experience, I know how much comfort a dog can give. Unfortunately, my little sweetheart right now would be too shy for that job. She's dedicated to me and my husband though, and provides a lot of comfort and enjoyment.

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Beautiful dogs! What a wonderful lens!

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @sierradawn lm: Thanks so much!

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @marktplaatsshop: Thanks so much for reading!

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @sierradawn lm: I am actually aa cat lover too. We rescued a huge Maine Coon lap cat, and he purrs as loud as a motor.

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @sierradawn lm: Thank you! I think the dogs are happy too. : )

    • sierradawn lm profile image

      sierradawn lm 

      5 years ago

      Your parent's dogs are so beautiful! What a wonderful job for a dog to have, giving healing doggy love!

    • sierradawn lm profile image

      sierradawn lm 

      5 years ago

      What a heartwarming story!!! The dog we have belongs to my grandson actually--I am a cat person but am training my ragdoll to be a therapist cat at the hospice across the street from where I live.

    • sierradawn lm profile image

      sierradawn lm 

      5 years ago

      What a heartwarming lens!

    • marktplaatsshop profile image


      5 years ago

      I have no dog but two cats that are the light of my life, I love animals and it is great to see that therapy dogs can help people getting better, hopefully people will also learn to understand that animals are precious and we should take real good care of them, love this lens, thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My next door neighbor passed away this spring. Prior to his death he was visited by a therapy dog, it's the last time I remember him smiling.

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @BarbsSpot: Ebony and Cee Cee are great names. I bet you are a very happy and relaxed person! ; )

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @Lensmaster...Every dog in my life has been a therapeutic partner to me. That includes from big (black Newfie Ebony) to little (cutie pie Border Terrier mix Cee-Cee on the left with me)!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @Lensmaster...Ah, I see I was correct about Josh, a Newfie, all right! They love people, and are especially good with children. Enjoyed this Lens!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      5 years ago from Canada

      That is a great pair of dogs! I am not interested in owning a dog but I know that they are good for you!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Actually I own a therapy cat. She is soft, warm, and furry. Meow.

    • Michelllle profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @RinchenChodron: I have a kitty too. Josh and Nester belong to my parents. My cat is "aggressively affectionate" towards us, but he is very spoiled and possessive. He meows in kitty speak: No Dogs Allowed. But, alas, I think cats lower stress too. Something about purring.

      Thanks for reading my lens!

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 

      5 years ago from Ireland

      I reckon I have my own therapy dog, he's a gentle and loving black Labrador. Your quite right in saying that being close to a dog can reduce stress levels, it's the best therapy anyone could want.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Of course I would, but have to wait til AFTER my cat dies. He would NOT like a dog around.


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