I generally work with rescues for my monthly Giving Back program, but this month is a little different. The Pets Assisting With Healing (PAWH) Program at Children’s Hospital is a unique and wonderful organization, that I was very excited to help with!
Unlike regular therapy dog visits to patients, (which they also do) animals in the PAWH Program actually assist with development and rehabilitation. Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapists request dogs to participate in a children’s therapy sessions, and they are used for motivation, sensory stimulation, balance, range of motion, etc. Of course, they also bring a bit of joy and normalcy in an otherwise sterile (and sometimes scary) environment.
In speaking with the director of PAWH, I learned that this is the only program quite like it in the country. Most hospitals allow therapy animal visits, but are against animals participating in therapy or being present before procedures; it took a lot of time, regulations, and dedicated people to make it happen here, and it’s become a very popular, exciting program!
The volunteers spend a lot of their own time and money to get their animals certified, trained, groomed before each visit, and committing to at least one year of service. The people I met at these shoots were so sweet, and so kind, and obviously really love participating in PAWH. They all had stories of how the kids light up when they’d see the animals, and how wonderful their animals are with the kids.
The program puts together “trading cards” for each of the therapy animals, that the kids get to keep. I was very happy to donate my time photographing the animals for their trading cards, and giving a print to each owner. With my Rescue of the Month Program, I also donate $20 from every session to that month’s organization. This month, the money will go toward printing the cards, and hopefully they’ll put some smiles on a few kids faces :)
Here’s the crew I had the pleasure of meeting:
If you’re interested in getting involved with PAWH, check out their website for more information.