For the Love of Dogs: Pet Therapy at CHOP

Meet Cyrus, Meatloaf and Cooper, three of the dogs bringing smiles to patients and families at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The dogs — and their volunteer handlers Domenick, Tori and Fran — are part of the Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program, an innovative program funded by generous donors. Clinicians say the therapy dogs help children cope with the emotional aspects of their illnesses; families say the dogs offer kids a welcome distraction, reassurance and acceptance.

Please consider making a gift in support of Child Life initiatives that typically aren't funded by insurance, like pet therapy. With your contribution today we will be able to take extraordinary steps to help ease children's fears, manage their pain, and, best of all, help them get well and make breakthroughs, big and small.


For the Love of Dogs: Pet Therapy at CHOP

Domenick: When I bring Cyrus to meet patients in the hospital, I often hear people say, “If he can do it, I can do it,” or “he's just like me.” Cyrus was born without front legs and he's a little bit different than other dogs, but he doesn't know that. And he's always, you know, happy and positive, and dogs don't know any differently, like they don't understand that they're different or that they're having a problem. So, dogs tend to make people feel confident that they can overcome the problems that they might be facing in the hospital. This is what he would prefer to do all day, is just be in someone's lap.

Mitchell: Cyrus, he's my kind of dog. He was quiet and eager to snuggle, and so I feel like I can just curl up on the couch with Cyrus.

Elizabeth: We don't have pets at home and so it's been very special for us to be a part of this program at CHOP.

Kevin Gimeno, RN: Taking care of patients is more than just giving them medications and checking their vitals once in a while. It's really looking after their wellbeing, the psychologically, spiritually, physically. And therapy dogs just really help with a lot of that because it takes care of a lot of the psychological aspect of it. If it brightens their day for just 15 minutes, they just have a much better day for the rest of the day.

Tori: The most important thing is that they have a good temperament and they're comfortable with people and they're happy to just kind of lay and chill with people.

Lisa Serad: Currently our program is all volunteer. We have retirees; we have grad students; we have stay-at-home moms; we have working professionals and everything in between, giving their time to come in here and work with our kids and their families.

Ashleigh Schopen: We feel really fortunate that our volunteers are so generous with their time and that they spend so much time up on the units, but we are getting more and more requests from our patients and families and we would love to have the opportunity to, you know, offer a pet therapy visit on a daily basis.

Fran: Britney, this is Cooper

Britney: Hi Cooper

Ashleigh Schopen: And we're really fortunate to have very generous donors who allow the opportunities to provide the funds to be able to work with our volunteers and getting them on the floor.

Elizabeth: We are so grateful for all of the donations that are made for this program. It wouldn't be possible without the donors, so we thank them from the bottom of our hearts for the Pet Therapy Program at CHOP.

Kaylynn: You could be like miserable on this hand and like there's a dog sitting like happy, and that happy outweighs miserable.

Topics Covered: Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program

Related Centers and Programs: Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy