From 1996-2021 Pet Pals brought volunteer dogs to the American Family Children’s Hospital to visit pediatric patients, many of whom were hospitalized for extended periods with very severe diseases.
This program recruited and screened teams of volunteer dogs and their owners to visit children who are patients at the American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) with the goal of providing these very special kids with safe and enjoyable visits from loving canine friends.
Program Update - Fall 2021
After 25 years of positively impacting the lives of thousands of children and their families who have relied on the American Family Children’s Hospital for care, Pet Pals has made the difficult decision to come to an end. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteer-based programs like Pet Pals were suspended indefinitely beginning in March 2020 and continue to be suspended without current plans to resume in the near future.
From its beginnings, Pet Pals prioritized the safety and well-being of all AFCH patients, and now, Pet Pals will cheer on and support children and their families from afar.
I would like to take a minute to reflect on the twenty-five wonderful years the Pet Pals program has contributed to the well-being of AFCH patients, their families and hospital staff. The growth of the program has been simply phenomenal. We started with three dear dogs (Magic, Duke and Bismarck) and expanded to around 25 teams at any one time over the past several years. In total, 156 dogs have participated in the program! Every size, color, amount of fur and personality you can imagine — all loved by the AFCH kids. Plus, 200 human volunteers have served our program faithfully as team members, visit captains and behavior evaluators. Then there are the countless veterinary medical students, without whom our essential medical evaluations would not have been possible.
Dr. Linda Sullivan
Pet Pals Coordinator and Professor Emerita, UW School of Veterinary Medicine
Continuing the Pet Pals Spirit
The Canine Health And Medical Pals program (CHAMPs) will continue the important work of comfort animals for pediatric patients at AFCH. The program pairs a facility dog with a child life specialist, who is trained to be a facility dog handler, to provide customized interventions in conjunction with a coping plan for patients. Kiko, the first dog in the CHAMPs program, began her onboarding in October 2021, and a second dog will join the team in spring 2022. This program also includes a partnership with the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, which will take care of the dog’s medical and infection control needs.
While in-person Pet Pals visits were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sullivan and the volunteer pups created special seasonal slideshows for pediatric patients to enjoy. Click the link above to download and view these narrated presentations.