Sign In

Therapy Dogs Make Virtual Visits

May 5, 2020

These pups won’t let a pandemic stop them from bringing a smile to young hospital patients.

At the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the dog therapy program has adapted to make sure their lineup of 127 four-legged friends can still visit patients, families and staff, even if via a computer screen. For the organizers — who haven’t missed a day of service in the past five years — the work-around was a must for their mission to continue.

“Our CHLA community was anxious, and we turned to innovation to help us provide something meaningful for them,” program manager Kate Buhrmaster said in a blog post, adding that the dogs use Webex video conference calls to chat with people.

So far, over 60 of the 127 dogs and their handlers have been set up with equipment to do these socially distanced visits, which have been a hit with the humans on the other end of the call.

“They were oohing and aahing at their screen,” Buhrmaster said. “Then the questions started: ‘Can you scratch him behind his ears? Can you give him a belly rub for me?’ Just seeing a relaxed doggie face on the screen looking back at you does wonders.”

Aside from one-on-one check-ins, the program also holds weekly “Paws and Relax” meetups, when up to eight dogs call in to brighten the day of humans.

“We know we are kind of like comfort food for the hospital,” Buhrmaster said. “We are a familiar part of the CHLA community. We let you check-in, take a deep breath and have a moment to appreciate that we are all in this together, even if we’re on the other side of a computer screen.” In the past, the L.A. program was again forced to get creative on how to reach patients they couldn’t share the room with. When they weren’t allowed to make in-person visits with those in the bone marrow transplant unit of the hospital due to strict isolation rules, they came up with an alternative. “People told us the thing that was going to be harder, on an emotional level, for the patients was not having the dog therapy program there. I thought ‘I can’t let that happen,’ ” Buhrmaster said. “We came up with the idea of doggie pen pals, where we can deliver laminated photos and letters from the dogs to the kids.”

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Big Dogs Need Owners

    When the shutdown orders took full effect, it became nearly impossible to find a small dog available for adoption as Southlanders sought furry companions. In many Southland shelters, only larger breeds remained available for adoption. Now Los Angeles Animal Service is touting the joys of big dogs while offering discounted adoption fees for larger breeds […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Walkathon

    On Saturday, October 3, hundreds of walkers from across 15 states joined the path to bettering the world for children with autism and their families as part of BluePath Service Dogs’ fourth annual walkathon. The family-friendly fundraiser – this year held virtually – raised more than $120,000 to further BluePath’s mission of providing autism service […]

    Read more

    Service Dog In The Marching Band

    In a year that is anything but normal, the Jones College Maroon Typhoon Marching Band has welcomed its first known service dog member this fall. Laurie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, is baritone saxophone player Sara-Beth McKellar’s service dog. The Vicksburg native was diagnosed with epilepsy as a sophomore in high school after her first seizure. […]

    Read more

    Church Blesses Animals

    St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception in Port Jervis hosted a special outdoor service last Sunday afternoon to bless the community’s pets, animals and other living creatures. In keeping with current pandemic rules, pet owners wore masks, remained distant, and took part in praying for dogs, cats, turtles, and other pets and animals around […]

    Read more

    Police Welcome New Canine

    After the unexpected passing of longtime Police Service Dog Zeus earlier this week, Kingston Police are welcoming a new member to the Canine Unit. Police Service Dog Bask, also known as K9-8, is a Dutch Shepherd and Belgium Malinois mix, and will be patrolling the streets of Kingston with his handler Constable Jeff Dickson. Bask […]

    Read more

    Dog Park For Travelers

    St. Petersburg is widely recognized as a dog-friendly city, and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is making sure its four-legged visitors and their humans feel welcome by rolling out the artificial turf carpet. With the completion of the airport’s parking and roadway project – part of a series of multi-million dollar improvements at the airport over the […]

    Read more