A dog's healing presence is known to have a positive influence on wellness. That's the driving force behind Sit...Stay...PLAY, the facility dog program at Cook Children's. Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth has professionally trained dogs on staff through a partnership with Canine Assistants, a service dog agency in Georgia. A team of Cook Children's employees has been trained as the dogs' handlers, and each day the dogs come to work to serve as part of our therapeutic environment.
As a committed partner, Hari Mari donates 1% of all sales to support kids battling cancer, helping to pay for medicine, treatment & hospital costs. We call it, "Flops Fighting Cancer." September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and we've asked our incredible partners at Cook Children's a few questions to learn more about the Pediatric Cancer and the amazing work they do to help these brave children. Here is some insight from Kat, A Child Life Specialist who handles one of the Sit...Stay...Play facility dogs, named Chanel.
Hari Mari : "What inspired you to focus on children in your medical career?"
Kat : "I always joke that I didn’t choose my career, rather my career chose me. I always wanted to be a teacher, until I got to college and decided I wanted to be a physician. My sister was an oncology nurse at the children’s hospital and talked me into volunteering in the brand new “playroom.” During that time, I realized that being a physician was the wrong side of the equation for me. I loved the work I did comforting, playing, calming, etc. which is a huge part of being a Child Life specialist. I just never left. "
Hari Mari : "Is there a cancer that seems to be more prevalent than others in children? "
Kat : "I would say that leukemia is the most prevalent diagnosis that we see. It’s reported that over 10,000 children a year are diagnosed. Other diagnoses that we frequently see are lymphoma, neuroblastoma, Wilm’s tumor and other solid tumors."
Hari Mari : "Say I have a friend or family member experiencing pediatric cancer, what is the best way I can support both the whole family and the child?"
Kat: "There are so many ways that people can help. Being present, and not just at the beginning of a diagnosis, is one way. That may not mean being physically at the hospital (especially now, in the age of COVID-19) but sending texts or calling just to say that they are thinking about the family. Offering specific types of support can be helpful: “Let me take care of your dog while you are at the hospital.” “I grabbed a bag of necessary items like toilet paper and paper towels for you all and left them on your porch.” Being aware of and available to siblings can also be very helpful. Gifts are always appreciated, but some children receive many stuffed animals at the time of their diagnosis so things like gift cards to a food delivery service or age-appropriate craft kits may be more helpful."
Hari Mari : "What does Cook Children’s do differently to create a more fun experience for kids with cancer?"
Kat : "We are very blessed with our resources here at Cook Children’s, which would not be possible without donations. We have many ways to engage kids and teens in age-appropriate fun, even now. We have toys and activities that they can play with in their rooms. Outside of COVID-19, we have playrooms and other activity areas. We have a lot of community partners who help us with things like making first run Disney movies available at the hospital, or providing special visits from celebrities like Bumblebee, the Transformer. Our Child Life Zone TV programming has really kept things lively during the pandemic, offering daily game shows, crafts and other activities for kids. We also have a strong therapeutic camping program that has transitioned this year to “Backyard Editions” so the fun continued even when kids couldn’t physically be at camp. We have great ancillary programming through things like music therapy, our artist in residence (CARPE) program, and our therapeutic clown program. And how could I forget—we have dogs! Our facility dog, Chanel, is part of the staff on the Oncology unit."
Hari Mari : "Can you tell us about the facility dogs?"
Kat : "We have a program that includes 6 facility dogs. They are trained service dogs and are placed with us after almost two years of training with Canine Assistants in Georgia. Chanel is our oldest dog. We’ve been a team since January of 2014. The dogs are assigned to areas based on their handler’s role. Chanel worked with me in neurology for several years and has now worked with me in Hematology/Oncology for about a year and a half. Her role here is extremely therapeutic. We know why it works and can definitely talk about increased endorphins, lower heart rate, etc., but I feel like some of the magic is unexplainable. For example, a child who tells us they don’t need a premed because they feel “braver when the dog is here.” Or a teen at the end of life who is not very responsive but begins to pet the dog when she lays with them on the bed."
Hari Mari : "How can people get involved to help the fight against childhood cancer?"
Kat : "There are several ways people can help. Financial donations and in-kind donations are always welcome. I’d encourage you to check with the staff about the needs when considering an in-kind donation."
Hari Mari : "Anything you’d like to add about the fight against childhood cancer, Cook Children’s, or your experience helping pediatric cancer patients?"
Kat : "I’d just like to say thank you for all the amazing support that Hari Mari provides to our health care system! I feel very blessed to work with this group of kids. They are amazing role models in resilience."