Therapy Dogs Bring Holiday Cheer to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Just call them Santa Paws.
By: Aly Semigran
A therapy dog visits CHOP.

It’s a devastating thing when children wind up in the hospital any time of year, but it feels especially unfair around the holidays.

That’s where places like the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia go above and beyond to make the best of the situation for kids and their families.

CHOP, which offers certified therapy dogs throughout the year, has now incorporated their volunteer pups in their holiday-themed events.

In fact, this December CHOP had “reindogs” accompany Santa and Mrs. Claus during their visits to the hospital. “It was a lot of fun,” recalls Lisa Serad, the coordinator of CHOP’s Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program.

“We try to get as many kids home as we can for the holidays, so for the kids who are here on the holidays, they are truly the sickest kids that we have. We want to do something to cheer them up.”

Serad, who brings her own dog in on Christmas day to spread some holiday cheer, says that the dogs (who are available to kids who are not allergic and want to be around them) can make a big difference.

“They light up. A lot of them are missing their own dogs at home,” she says.

These volunteer therapy dogs don’t just provide a service to the children, but the staff as well, who can see up to 300 patients per day.

As Serad puts it, these licensed therapy dogs “are another tool in the toolbox” that helps the patients, parents, and staff thrive at CHOP.

With a current rotation of 57 dogs—ranging from Great Danes to Poodles—the kids at the hospital get both emotional and physical support. The staff considers the therapy dogs a gift that gives all year long.

You can make donations to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia here.

Images via Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

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