“Can I take her home with me?”
It’s one of the questions Child Life Program Manager Sandy Westfall hears most often from Doernbecher patients (and, occasionally, employees) when they first meet Hope, Doernbecher’s new facility dog.
Below, we answer more questions about the dog who’s bringing hope to our halls, one smile at a time.
What does Hope do at Doernbecher?
As “chief canine officer,” Hope’s job is to provide emotional support, therapy and love to our pediatric patients and their families. Her handler, Sandy, introduces Hope to Doernbecher patients by request. They can take Hope for walks or play a game of fetch in the courtyard. When Hope meets patients who are unable to get out of bed, Sandy issues one of her favorite commands: “Snuggle!”
Hope’s impact extends far beyond patient rooms. Sandy brings her along to meetings, where OHSU employees can be spotted crouching down to get some quality Hope time. The duo inevitably meet new friends when walking between units or when Hope’s headed outside for a break. Hope’s schedule does allow for some downtime, and she enjoys well-deserved naps in Sandy’s office.
How is Hope different from a therapy dog or a service dog?
A facility dog’s training is much more extensive than that of a therapy dog, lasting about a year and a half. Unlike service and guide dogs, Hope was trained to serve more than one person. She came to Doernbecher in January from Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, a non-profit organization that provides professionally trained dogs for people in need. Hope began her training when she was just 8 weeks old, undergoing rigorous health and temperament screenings and learning more than 70 commands.
Hope is also handled by a professional: Sandy underwent rigorous training as well, traveling to Maui for an intensive program that included an overview on dog psychology, giving instruction and the hygiene measures that are necessary for a hospital facility dog. Hope lives with Sandy and the two carpool into work each day to make the rounds together.
What makes Hope a good fit for Doernbecher?
Assistance Dogs of Hawaii founders Mo and Will Maurer selected Hope, an English Cream Golden Retriever, for her role because of her calm demeanor. Not many dogs are well suited for a hospital environment, but Hope is not an easily distracted dog. The screenings she went through in her training helped ensure that she would be a good fit for Doernbecher patients and families.
“Hope’s presence has changed the mood of the whole hospital,” Sandy said. “I’ve seen parents overjoyed because it’s the first time they’ve seen their child smile in awhile. She has brought a lot more joy and love and excitement for our kids.”
What does Hope like to do in her free time?
When she isn’t snuggling with our patients, Hope loves a good game of catch. Like any true Oregonian, she also enjoys hiking and trips to the beach.
Hope comes to us thanks to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation board member Kate McCoy and her husband, Craig, who brought Assistance Dogs of Hawaii to the attention of Doernbecher administration. The McCoys believed that a facility dog would bring hope, love, joy and healing to Doernbecher patients, families and staff, and they made a generous gift to help establish the Hope Fund within the Doernbecher Foundation. Thank you, Kate and Craig!