We all know that dogs can bring us a smile when one seems so far away–and that’s never more the case that with hospital patients and others who receive the services of therapy dogs. Dog Therapy Appreciation Day recognizes the work these dogs and their handlers do to provide much needed cheer.
When is Dog Therapy Appreciation Day?
Dog Therapy Appreciation Day is held every April 11. The pet holiday was launched in 2016 to recognize the Amerman Family Foundation Dog Therapy Program’s commitment to providing cheer for patients, their families, and hospital staff.
Star Lends Support
Actress Kristen Renton, who has starred in the NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives and the FX drama series Sons of Anarchy, helped to shine a spotlight on the achievements of dogs who act as emotional support for those in need at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) thanks to the Amerman Family Foundation Dog Therapy Program.
The dog therapy program at CHLA is one of the most innovative programs in the country. It recruits, trains, and supports a roster of roughly 100 therapy dog teams visiting a wide variety of clinical settings.
The TV star was among the group that gathered at the hospital’s outdoor dining terrace on April 11th to celebrate the inaugural Dog Therapy Appreciation Day.
Attendees had the chance to meet 20 of the program’s tail-wagging participants, step into a photo booth with one of the kind-hearted canines for a souvenir snapshot, and collect therapy dog trading cards, while the four-legged honorees enjoyed special treats and went home with a Spot-themed swag bag.
Launched 15 years ago, today the Amerman Family Foundation Dog Therapy Program has 117 volunteers and 107 therapy dogs who help to lighten the hospital stay of young patients like 13-year-old Erika Daniels.
The arrival of a dog at a patient’s room is often one of the most anticipated parts of the child’s hospital stay, providing an opportunity for a happy, memorable moment during what can be a challenging time.
Dogs are also available to help motivate kids during physical therapy, distract them during long or uncomfortable procedures, and provide relief for those in pain. And if a patient needs extra support for any reason – anxiety over a specific procedure, loneliness if a parent must go home or to work, motivation for that first daunting attempt to get out of bed after major surgery – a hospital caregiver can request a special dog visit.
“It was really hard to be in the hospital for five weeks,” said Erika, who recovered from brain surgery that resulted in partial paralysis and speech loss thanks in part to the dog therapy program. “When the dogs would come to my room, of course I wanted to pet them and play with them and in order to do that, I had to start moving. I got stronger and learned to walk again thanks to them. Someday I hope I can be a dog therapy volunteer with my dog Patches.”
An average of four of the dog therapy program’s pooches visit CHLA every day, and in the past year the dogs and their volunteers have spent one-on-one time with per 10,000 patients. Approximately half of the dogs in the program are rescues.