Company ambles through the atrium at Children’s National Hospital, leaving a wake of smiles. Kids point and move in his direction. They touch his warm fur and maybe stop for a photo. Every patient or family member the Golden Retriever puppy meets teaches him something about his role as a therapy dog.
Our Animal Visit and Therapy Program has more than 30 volunteer therapy dogs who regularly visit the hospital to bring comfort. Company is our first facility dog (or on-staff therapy dog) in training. He joined our team in December 2019 at 2 months old.
Company belongs to Allison Proctor, the social worker and animal behavior expert who coordinates the program. His main job is to acclimate to the people, sights and sounds of the hospital. He’s also learning basic obedience and other good manners required of therapy dogs. He boards the hospital shuttle with Allison each morning and travels to our main campus. His name is a tribute to a special dog Allison’s dad had growing up who was such good company.
In early 2020, Allison introduced Company to a patient who was struggling. “Getting her to move around had been a challenge,” Allison says. “When she saw Company and held him in her arms, her demeanor changed. It was as if she thought, ‘I can do this a little longer.’ It was the first time in a while that she had smiled. This is the power of dogs — to bring love, healing and maybe a little bit of normalcy to our kids in the hospital.”
In July 2020, 2-year old facility dog Barney joined Company as a facility dog on staff. Throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic, they have kept the pet therapy program afloat as our volunteer pet therapy teams could not visit. In September, the Washington Post featured their work in a KidsPost story.
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