Volunteer Spotlight: PAWH Teams!

Pets Assisting With Healing (PAWH) volunteers help patients with developmental rehabilitation, and brighten their stay in the hospital by providing pet visits in a variety of patient care areas. Pet and handler teams go through an intensive training and screening process before coming into Children’s to ensure that the dog (or bunny) and handler are well-suited to the hospital environment and visiting role. Currently, Children’s PAWH program includes 27 dog and two bunny teams!

Quick Statistics

-PAWH teams make visits to many different areas of the hospital! Recently, teams have begun making visits to St. Paul’s surgery waiting  area, emergency department, and Short Stay Unit, in addition to ongoing visits made to the inpatient units!

Occupational Therapist Kate Bataglia with PAWH team, Boyd and Kristine Diffley

-In 2011, PAWH teams volunteered a total of 1,537 hours!

-89 PAWH requests from the Rehab department (for PAWH teams to assist with patient appointments) were met in 2011

Staff Comments on the PAWH Program

“It is amazing to see the immediate reaction of not only our patients, but the parents and siblings who are excited to see them. Doctors, Administration, and nurses: everyone has been seen sitting on the floor petting the dogs. They bring out the best in everyone!”- Mary Ayinde, Surgery

“The kids enjoy the dogs just as much as the dogs enjoy the kids!”- Tom Marsolais, Child Life

“To see the smiles and joy on kids’ faces is absolutely priceless when the dogs come to visit!”- Pam Monteiro, RN

“I have been at Children’s for almost 21 years. I enjoy my job, but have to say that my very favorite days are when the canine volunteers and their owners come. They make my day just suddenly seem lighter, and make me smile. My coworkers know how much I enjoy this, so when a PAWH volunteer comes, someone will always announce, “The dog is here–someone find Dolan!”  I am so happy that the kids share them all with us.” -Colleen Dolan, RN

“Being able to utilize our PAWH volunteers for therapy sessions has made a significant impact on the children and families that we work with from week to week. It is very rewarding and exciting, as a therapist, to see a child’s face light up at the sight of their furry therapy friend. Children just seem to be much more engaged and excited about their therapy “work” with the presence and support of a PAWH team. I cannot thank these volunteers enough for the time and enthusiasm that they put into doing what they do best!” -Kate Bataglia, MA, OTR/L

“I am so incredibly grateful for the time and effort that our volunteer handlers put into our program to make it so spectacular. The extra time that goes into making a visit or a rehab treatment session go smoothly is never unnoticed. Karen [Sheahan] and Reba have made such a difference with the children that I treat. Karen comes up with ideas of how to incorporate new games into the therapy session that are games Reba can participate in, but make the goals we work on therapy so much more fun. We would never make the gains that we have made without their teamwork attitude. I am grateful for each and every volunteer handler and their therapy dog. Thank you!!!” -Nicole Iammatteo, OT

Volunteer Thoughts on PAWH

“When I first got interested in doing therapy work with my dog, I had the same picture in my mind as most people:  my dog comforting people by sedately letting them pet her.  The question that I kept asking myself was, “Would my sweet, gentle, but workaholic dog be happy with that?”  Ha!  What we do in Rehab is far from that initial impression–and my dog, Reba, absolutely loves it!

Reba has been able to put all of her talents to work:  obstacle courses, games, treasure hunts, and dress-up parades.  It’s all great fun for Reba, our young friend, and for me–and while we are having fun, our friend is strengthening their motor skills.  It has proved a perfect fit for us.  The children’s delight and enthusiasm at having my dog as a partner in therapy, and playing an active part in their improvement, is truly heartwarming.  It’s a highlight in both my day and Reba’s.”

-Karen Sheahan, PAWH volunteer

“The best part about being on the PAWH team is providing relief to those we meet:  patients, family, and the wonderful staff.  Plus,

Stella loves the treats!”

-John Zabel, PAWH Volunteer

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