You’ll know Doernbecher volunteer Huck Finn when you see him.
Huck is a quiet, laid-back cat with a “checkered past,” according to his owner, Carol Markt. His age is unknown, but Carol speculates that he’s about 9 years old. He had a rough start to life, having been abandoned in an apartment building by his previous owners – if only they knew how much joy he would one day bring to the lives of Doernbecher kids, families and staff!
Like other therapy cats and dogs, Huck is screened regularly to ensure he is well suited for volunteer work in a medical setting. He’s known for his calm, tolerant demeanor.
Another thing Huck is known for is his size – his breed, like his age, is unknown, but Carol guesses he might be part Maine Coon. Patients see Huck lounging on top of his volunteer cart, which Carol steers, and ask if he knows how to walk. Rest assured, Huck gets his daily exercise through daily 30-second “wild and crazy” bursts of activity at home.
This dynamic duo is one of 14 animal-assisted therapy teams at Doernbecher. They volunteer once a week, making the rounds to visit patients on 10N, 10S and in the PICU. For patients with pets at home, Huck’s visit provides a sense of normalcy. He’ll occasionally lie on patients’ beds to be petted or help motivate patients undergoing physical therapy.
Carol remembers a time when a patient with Guillain Barre syndrome moved his foot ever so slightly as Huck was brought into his room. A member of the patient’s care team told Carol it was the first time he’d seen that happen.
Carol believes pet therapy can have an enormous impact on a sick child. “It takes them out of being here in a hospital,” she said. “They’re transported for awhile.”
Learn more about volunteer opportunities at OHSU here.