The Montreal Children’s Hospital’s Child Life Pet Therapy program is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year!
Every Wednesday, Gaia, a little brown poodle from Zoothérapie Québec, plays with patients in the Family Resource Centre from 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. “Some kids like to pet or play with the dog, while others enjoy just holding her,” says Marie-France Haineault, coordinator of Child Life Services at the MCH. “It really depends on the health and physical ability of the child, but Gaia is great at adapting herself to the state of the child.” In order to participate, child life specialists identify hospitalized children from medical, surgical and oncology units they believe could benefit from the experience. Once approved by their family and physician, the child gets to spend 30 minutes with the dog. “The program helps children feel less isolated and gives them an opportunity for normalization during their hospital stay,” adds Marie-France. “In some cases, we can even bring down the child in their hospital bed!”
Did you know?
- Over the last 10 years, 3000 patients have benefited from the MCH’s Child Life Pet Therapy program!
- The dogs are handled by a certified animal-assisted therapist and they work at Zoothérapie Québec during the week
- Gaia is strictly reserved for the Children’s and is not allowed to visit any other health centre in order to reduce the spread of infection
- The dogs are washed before every shift and work on a rotating schedule
· Our second furry friend, Jazz, retired a few months ago, and a new dog is currently being trained.