Texas Children’s Hospital’s first community campus therapy dog has officially started at The Woodlands campus. A week after Child Life’s gender reveal, Cohen began to make his mark on the hospital and in the hearts of employees and patients.
The 19-month-old golden retriever, doodle mix, is the fourth therapy dog in Texas Children’s Pawsitive Play Program, which uses animal-assisted therapy to enhance the emotional well-being of pediatric patients by reducing their anxiety, perception of pain and fear of hospitalization.
Like the other therapy dogs Cohen was specifically trained for this position at Canine Assistants, a non-profit in Atlanta, which has matched more than 1,500 service dogs with individuals and hospitals. He will be groomed weekly and his paws will be wiped down daily. Patients who are allergic to dogs will not be consulted and the dog will not go into patient rooms without first receiving verbal permission from a guardian and the medical team.
Cohen offers distraction and motivation to patients undergoing certain medical procedures, but it’s not just him that aids in this process. Child Life Specialist Carolyn Canlas, who goes by CJ, has the amazing opportunity to be Cohen’s handler. Both she and Cohen have been trained to collaborate with medical teams and physical and occupational therapists to visit with several patients each day who are having a particularly difficult time during their hospitalization.
“Words cannot express how much gratitude I feel in taking on this new role,” Canlas said. “This is such an awesome opportunity to utilize my child life skillset in such a unique way. I can’t wait to see the joy that Cohen brings to patients, families and staff.”
On June 26 Cohen met his other furry co-workers, Elsa, Bailey, and Pinto who support the Medical Center Campus, before heading off on his first day of work. Cohen was generously funded through a gift from Newfield Foundation. This new addition to the Woodlands family is just one of the many ways that the campus continues to expand and support the community.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have CJ and Cohen on our Woodlands Child Life Team,” Manager of Patient and Family Services Cynda Parrish said. “CJ and Cohen will be able to create special opportunities with our patients, families and staff through targeted therapeutic interventions to support coping and provide positive hospital experiences. We are excited to integrate this amazing resource into our child life team’s clinical practice.”