A warm and fuzzy hug can help anyone feel better. Did you know a dog's healing presence is known to have a positive influence on wellness. That's the driving force behind Sit...Stay...PLAY, our facility dog program at Cook Children's.
Interacting with a dog can help your child—and your family members—feel more at ease by reducing stress and anxiety. Here at Cook Children's, we have professionally trained dogs on our staff through a partnership with Canine Assistants and Canine Companions for Independence. A team of Cook Children's employees have been trained as the dogs' handlers, and each day the dogs come to work to serve as part of our therapeutic environment. Whether the dogs come in and sit by your child's side or help them recover from a procedure, there are added health benefits—and lots of happy tales!
Some of the benefits of interaction with our facility dogs are:
- Providing an alternate focus from illness symptoms, pain and medical treatment.
- Offering unconditional love and acceptance.
- Motivating and supporting patient coping through encouragement.
- Reducing anxiety by providing physical contact and a soft touch.
- Improving fitness by encouraging exercise (especially after surgery).
- Promoting social interaction.
- Reducing feelings of loss and loneliness for patients who are missing home, family and pets.
A generous amount of love
Thanks to the generosity of donors, our Cook Children's family includes a crew of happy and helpful golden retrievers, golden doodles and labrador retrievers. In addition to making a donation through our foundation, we also appreciate in-kind donations. Our fluffy Sit...Stay...PLAY team brings comfort and healing to patients, families and staff. Supporting our wish list is a great way to let them know how much they're appreciated.
Our Sit...Stay...PLAY program at Cook Children's is entirely funded by the generous contributions from community members; no fees are charged to our patients and families. Your support of this program ensures that this program serves patients for years to come.
Journey was handled by Child Life specialist Julia Smeltzer and Child Life manager Katie Campbell. Journey spent time seeing patients in inpatient cardiac step down unit and rounding to provide staff support. Journey came to work at Cook Children's, along with her cousin Kitty, in 2015. She often could be heard "talking," especially with toys in her mouth, and loved to wear bows in her hair. She enjoyed being the center of attention in order to make others smile or running into a wall and turning somersaults to break the tension of a situation, while also knowing when someone just needed a snuggle buddy. Unfortunately, Journey was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in December 2019 until she passed away in December 2020. Journey loved being at work and continued working hard throughout her treatment, still bringing smiles daily to patients and staff.
Thank you for being here today to remember and celebrate Journey and her life well lived. It is hard to believe it has almost been three months since we said good-bye to our four-legged friend. I have no doubt that her legacy of laughter, love and service will be felt forever at this hospital.
Journey arrived May 5, 2015. Looking back, Cinco de Mayo was the perfect day for her to arrive. It was very clear from the beginning that Journey was going to do things with her special touch. Journey and Kitty, her cousin, joined Ralph and Chanel as Sit…Stay…PLAY grew for the first time. Ralph, Chanel and Kitty all approached their work in an old soul way. Almost as if they knew, that we knew, that they were wiser than us and understood what was happening in a patient room and how they could help support the patient and family. We just needed to get out of their way. Journey, well she was wise and she would reveal her old soul in time, but her first approach was to behave like the 80s rock band that we all assumed she was named for. Journey was an energetic pup who loved to entertain, create laughter and leave a lasting impact. Her crimped ears just added to the look and complemented her style very well.
Journey loved her work in the Heart Center alongside Julia. Journey was a perfect mix of an encourager to help kids sit up and walk after surgery to gently snuggling when a kiddo just needed a moment to rest and be still. Journey was loved by patients and families but she also developed a quick bond with staff and became a source of stress relief and encouragement to them as well. Journey loved hanging out in the third floor playroom, and she would excitedly welcome patients that arrived to play. Journey partnered with Angie to provide support to patients and staff in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Journey was able to add a bright spot to some families' most stressful moments in the intensive care unit (ICU) setting. Journey loved loving on the staff in the PICU, and that is where she began to uncover the important work of supporting staff. Journey eventually found her way to the fourth floor in our Pavilion building (4PAV) where she worked alongside Zoe to help support neurology patients during hospital stays, and they benefited from a much needed distraction.
Because of some eventual staff shuffling and need for Journey to have a morning human, she and I were paired together. Together, we rounded on units and shared “human treats” with staff to encourage and support them in their work in direct patient care. Journey loved this work. She understood that the multidisciplinary team needed love and encouragement just as much as patients and families. In them, she also found a crowd that was easy to entertain. This is where she really perfected her routine of dramatically dragging herself against long walls, which quickly turned into chasing her tail and doing flips when she caught it. She would repeat this process until everyone was watching and laughing at her antics. She knew the laughter was important, and she loved putting on her show. There were moments where she got a little excited and would hit the wall so hard I began to contemplate how I was going to explain the Journey-sized hole in the sheetrock to Martin and his team. Luckily, it never came to that, but she was close on several occasions.
Journey and Julia found a way to make a difference off the unit as well. Journey loved being the YAC-PAC dog and meeting monthly with teenagers from all over the hospital. Journey especially loved her weeks at Camp Moss at Camp John Marc. The camp life suited her, even if it meant nightly brushing to remove all the sand spurs she would pick up from rolling around all day at camp. A highlight of Journey's year was attending the patient prom with her favorite fella, Ralph.
Journey was so many great things, but I don't think we can truly remember Journey without talking about some of weird, sometimes neurotic behaviors. Journey didn't hate many things, but there were two things she absolutely could just not cope with: 1. Baths from the groomer who came every other week to give each pup a bath. I think it was part of her master plan to get some much needed spa time at Glamour Paws, but she never fully admitted it. 2. She absolutely hated every classroom in the PAV basement. Journey didn't especially love being behind closed doors, but there was something about those rooms in particular that she despised. Journey wasn't a fan of cold things, her handlers getting too far away or sharing attention. And, she strongly disliked bubbles and balloons or pretty much anything that floated. The girl was special.
In December 2019, we got the awful, unexpected news that Journey had lymphoma. The prognosis wasn't great, but with treatment, Dr. Allstadt and her team believed they could give Journey some more time to work and make a difference. In true Journey fashion she made quick friends with the team at VSNT and found her visits for chemotherapy more of a social call. Instead of staying in a crate like the other patients, Journey took over the breakroom and eventually some doctors' offices. Journey loved going to see her friends at VSNT and they loved her right back. This was exactly how Journey worked her magic. There are not enough thank you's for the love and care these amazing group of humans showed Journey and Julia throughout her treatment.
After a rough start to treatment Journey did really well. She achieved remission, and she carried on with her work here. During chemo treatment weeks she created new routines and gave herself extra time to rest, but for the most part, without her red vest, an outsider would have never know that Journey was sick or receiving treatment.
After she relapsed and her treatment continued, the effects of the chemotherapy began to catch up with Journey. But, she still loved coming to work and visits with patients and staff. While I would be in meetings in the atrium, she would lay in the middle of the atrium on the cold marble floor and welcome anyone to come and join her. Once she found her spot she didn't really move for too much. I cannot count the times people had to step over her or carts had to go around her. It was truly her domain, and she had no intention of moving once she found the perfect spot.
Life without Journey has been more difficult than any of us could have anticipated. Many years ago as a young Child Life specialist I started a practice of naming lessons that patients taught me as a way of processing their death. I have gone back to that practice in the last few months as a way to process the loss of Journey. Here is what I have come up with:
- Make friends everywhere. Over the last 18 months, Journey and I spent most work mornings together. We developed a routine of stops along our routes to meetings and trips outside. Journey taught me to slow down and make friends with the people around this place. It is certainly what she did in her years here. I know, without a doubt, that I have friends now that only happened because of Journey. I consider them my gifts from her. Humans like Angela, Marlin, Alan and Tanner at the valet. What good people to valet a dog! ½ human ½ bear people at Build-A-Bear. Journey made a softy out of Terry and Kim and added the process of giving her treats to the list of skills of all new hire orientations in Build-A-Bear. A sign of being a frequent customer at Starbucks is that often the staff there can predict your order. Somehow, when we were in there, a puppachino ended up with my drink every time. It wasn't a question, her friends were taking care of her. And don't get me started about Chick-fil-A. Ms. Angie and her team spoiled this dog. It was very difficult toward the end of Journey's life, or who am I kidding ever, to get Journey to walk past Camelot Court without making a stop. She didn't care if the nuggets were too hot or if they had been cooked a while ago. She had to stop. It became non-negotiable. We sometimes changed our route to avoid the scene she would create when she dropped to her belly and refused to move another step. The list of friends could go on and on. Somehow, Journey convinced people all over this medical center to have special treats for her. It was hot cheese in the IV team supply bag room with Morris, crackers from Marie in Volunteer Services, hidden treats in the Family Resource Center and boogie treats with her Jantie. Journey knew where the treats were, but more importantly, she knew the people with them were her friends and loved her deeply. Journey loved them all right back. In her absence, I have been amazed by the number of friends Journey made here and the difference she made for so many.
- Find a way to have fun. We have already talked about it today, but Journey loved to make people laugh. She found joy in small things like stuffed animals or things that squeaked, and she was always looking for a good time. Journey loved playing with her dog and human friends. She was quick to share a toy and loved to talk while playing tug-of-war. Journey was known to tear into the CARE Team to see her cousin Kitty and most importantly grab her toys from the basket. Journey's best friend from the beginning was Chanel, and together they aged well…in their early days they would share zoomies on the north lawn and play fetch. That transformed into watching the “younger” pups play while they observed and at times judged them for their “choices.” Yes, Journey and Chanel could in fact be judgey. Journey, at times, could be slow to warm to newer pups who joined Sit…Stay…PLAY. It was actually how we figured out how she was sick. But, eventually, she learned to have fun and play with her much younger friends.
Journey and I may have had taken advantage of the reduced census because of COVID-19 and found ways to have fun when the main entrance was closed and we had to exit from the South Tower to go outside. We would “play” red light, green light on our way in and out of the building, which for Journey really meant walk, run and bolt. Sometimes, Brie would join us, and I would say they were equally bad at playing the game but we had fun none the less. The best part was when Journey would take off to go to the bathroom and desk staff would assume she had left her human and would chase after her very concerned. That was fun thata Journey never tired of. The desk team really can move fast.
Toward what I didn't realize would be the end of Journey's life, I surprised her when we left the office late on a Friday and let go of her leash. I asked her to show me where she wanted to go. She was a little confused at first, but quickly took me up on the offer. I bet you can guess exactly where we ended up: first stop Build-A-Bear, second stop Starbucks then Chick-fil-A and last stop the Volunteer Services office. Back to what was so true about Journey, the people she loved and an opportunity to have fun.
As I wrap-up, I would have to say a few words to you, Julia….you loved Journey girl well. I have no doubt that she did so well throughout her treatment because you took such loving and attentive care of her. Journey was your sidekick for so many years, and I know the hole that she has left in your heart is enormous. Thank you for the good work that you did together. Together, you guys made a difference for so many. In memory of Journey, Family Support Services has purchased a rocking chair in Journey's memory that will be a place to go and remember her in one of her favorite spots.
I cannot say thank you enough to the Cook Children's community who have embraced and loved Sit…Stay…PLAY since Chanel and Ralph arrived more than seven years ago. The opportunity to be a part of the Sit…Stay…PLAY team as a secondary handler has really been a highlight of my career. I am not going to lie, being a secondary handler is really where the fun is. Not quite as many enforced rules, a few more unspoken snacks, crazy adventures and more love than you can imagine.
You guys have loved and supported all of Team Journey as we mourn her loss, remember her legacy and try to figure out what it means to be at work without our friend. A special thank you to those who have left kolaches and other snacks on our desk because, just like Journey, we love a good snack. For those officemates who always make time to listen and share a funny memory about our friend and to all of you who loved Journey just as much as we did, thank you. Journey has left an enormous paw print on this place and so many people. For that, we will always be grateful. Thank you, Journey! We love you, buddy.
We are writing today with saddened hearts to share the news of Chanel's, the facility dog, unexpected death. Chanel was the matriarch of the Sit…Stay…Play! Program at Cook Childrens' Medical Center.
She and her brother Ralph began the program in 2014, and she has supported countless numbers of patient's, families and staff since that time. It is unusual to meet a person who is living exactly the life they were meant to live, but Chanel was a dog who was lucky enough to do just that.
Many of you know she was diagnosed with epilepsy in the fall. Her seizures had escalated and her vets were trying to control them with her medication but today her seizures could not be stopped. Her handler team, office mates, vet, chaplain and other special friends were with her at the end of her life to offer her love, comfort and encouragement.
She was blessed to be at work yesterday; still able to do the work she loved doing, supporting patients and families. There was not a morning that she was not excited to put on her green vest and jump in the car. Her tail wag was strong when she knew it was time to go "see her friends." In Chanel's career she worked in the Neurology Clinic, the inpatient Oncology/Hematology floor, with Pain Team and the Trauma & Surgery Recovery unit and loved these patients and every other child she met.
I can only image how many of the precious children she's known will be there to meet her with greetings and love as she crosses over. Her reach was deep and wide so she will be missed by people in every corner of the medical center and the community. Her servant's heart was true.
Coping with the death of a pet/ Afrontando la muerte de una mascota
It's hard to say goodbye to someone we love, including our pets. When a pet dies, it's very emotional and can be difficult to know how you are supposed to respond, let alone how to talk to your children about it. Know that you are not alone. We have created resources for you to use. At Cook Children's, we have dogs on staff that we care about, similar to our pets at home. Just like all pets, they are not able to stay with us forever.
How to talk to your child about a pet's death
It's always important for children to hear things from their trusted caregivers. Here are some ways to guide that conversation:
- Lead the conversation with any changes the pet experienced that the child may have noticed, like your pet going to the vet more often.
- Talk about your childhood pet passing and the emotions you experienced then.
- Allow the conversation to continue and evolve as the child asks questions. That's how they process information.
- Let them know it's still OK to talk about their pet.
- Validate your child's feelings. Make sure they know it's normal to have big feelings about the loss of their pet.
Ways to memorialize your pet
Saying goodbye to our pets is hard. Some people worry they will forget the happy times they shared with their pet. Below are helpful activities to do with your family to share memories and say goodbye to your loving pet.
- Plant a tree or flowers in honor of your pet.
- Write down your pet's story.
- Write a letter to your pet.
- Collect pictures of your pet and create a book or photo album.
- Create a memorial wall or shelf of your pet. For example, you can include pictures of your pet or display a few of their favorite things.
- Host a celebration of life in honor of your pet.
- Make a memorial stone or rock.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter.
- Donate items to an animal shelter, like food and toys.
For parents: we recommend that you read these books first before reading them with your child to ensure the message lines up with your family's beliefs and values.
When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers
The Invisible Leash by Patrice Karst
I'll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
I Miss My Pet: A First Look at When a Pet Dies by Pat Thomas
Dear Brave Friend by Leigh Ann Gerk
The Rainbow Bridge by Adrian Raeside
Dogs in Heaven by Melanie Salas
Need more help?
If you feel your child would benefit from talking to a licensed professional, please call Cook Children's Behavioral Health at 682-885-7439.
Muchas personas en el mundo tienen mascotas y Cook Children's es un lugar donde tienen perros dentro del personal que pueden visitar a los pacientes, las familias y los trabajadores. Al igual que todas las mascotas, no pueden quedarse con nosotros para siempre, eventualmente fallecerán. Algunas mascotas se ponen muy enfermas, otras envejecen y a veces ocurren accidentes que hacen que las mascotas pierdan la vida. El veterinario hará todo lo posible, pero no todo puede curarse. Cuando una mascota fallece, pueden surgir muchas emociones duras y aún más preguntas. Nosotros sabemos lo difícil que puede ser despedirse de alguien a quien queremos, incluidas nuestras mascotas. Le animamos a utilizar los recursos que aparecen a continuación para obtener más información sobre las formas de recordar a nuestras mascotas queridas o más información sobre este tema.
Consejos para hablar con su hijo del fallecimiento de una mascota
Siempre es importante que los niños escuchen cosas de sus cuidadores de confianza. He aquí algunas formas de iniciar esa conversación:
- Hable sobre el fallecimiento de su propio perro y discuta las emociones que experimentó en aquel entonces.
- Indicar cualquier cambio en la mascota que haya notado el niño (el perro va más al veterinario)
- Ayude a su hijo a entender. ¿Qué significa que un perro fallezca? (no necesita comer/beber)
- Por lo general, cuando los niños procesan información, harán preguntas. Permita la oportunidad de que la plática continúe cuando estén haciendo preguntas.
- Permítales saber que está bien hablar de su mascota.
- Valide los sentimientos de su hijo, asegúrese de que sabe que es normal tener sentimientos fuertes por la pérdida de su mascota.
Maneras de conmemorar a tu mascota
Despedirnos de nuestras mascotas es difícil. A algunas personas les preocupa olvidar los momentos felices con su mascota. A continuación, le ofrecemos una serie de actividades que puede hacer con su familia para compartir recuerdos y despedirse de su mascota querida.
- Plantar un árbol o flores en honor a su mascota
- Escribir la historia de su mascota
- Escribir una carta a su mascota
- Reunir fotos de su mascota y reunirlas en un libro o álbum de fotos
- Crear un mural o una repisa conmemorativa de su mascota. Por ejemplo, puede incluir fotos de su mascota o exponer algunas de sus cosas favoritas
- Organizar una celebración de la vida en honor a su mascota
- Hacer una piedra o roca conmemorativa
- Ser voluntario en un refugio de animales
- Donar artículos a un refugio de animales, como comida y juguetes
- ¿Se le ocurren otras ideas?
Lista de libros
*Para los padres: recomendamos que lean estos libros antes de leerlos con sus hijos para asegurarse de que el mensaje coincide con las creencias y valores de su familia.
**Puede ser que los libros solo estén disponibles en inglés.
When A Pet Dies (Cuando muere una mascota)
Escrito por Fred Rogers
The Invisible Leash (La correa invisible)
Escrito por Patrice Karst
I'll Always Love you (Siempre te amaré)
Escrito por Hans Wilhelm
I Miss My Pet: A First Look at When a Pet dies (Extraño a mi mascota: una primera impresión de la muerte de una mascota)
Escrito por Pat Thomas
Dear Brave Friend (Querido amigo valiente)
Escrito por Leigh Ann Gerk
The Rainbow Bridge (Puente al arco iris)
Escrito por Adrian Raeside
Dogs In Heaven (Perros en el cielo)
Escrito por Melanie Salas
¿Necesita más ayuda?
Si usted considera que su hijo se beneficiaría de hablar con un profesional licenciado, por favor llame a la línea de admisión de la Salud del Comportamiento al 682-885-7439 para referencias.
Help support our Facility Dog program with wish list items:
- Any size bag of Purina Pro Plan Adult Large Breed Focus (chicken or salmon)
- Any size bag of Purina Pro Plan Weight Management (chicken)
- Boxes of film for our on-the-go cameras: Fujifilm instax mini 8 (any color/variety)
- Decorative and/or seasonal bandanas, bows, collar flowers, bow ties, etc. (our dogs typically wear medium, large or XLarge)
- Dog brushes (soft ones patients could use to brush the dogs)
- Kong and Nerf dog toys (no tennis balls)
- Water bowls
- Lint rollers (especially travel size)
- Purell hand sanitizer (2 oz, 8 oz or travel bottles)
For more information on how you can help fulfill our wish list, please contact the Facility Dog Program at SitStayPlay@cookchildrens.org.
Brienne, also known as Brie, is handled by child life specialists Anne Stankus, Danielle Spruill and Emily Hood. Brienne spends time with patients on the Rehabilitation and Transitional Care Unit, the Dodson Surgery Center and the Special Procedures Area. Brienne came to work at Cook Children's in October 2019 alongside Steve who are both golden doodles. She loves to find the largest stick in the yard to play with and is well known for her incredibly long golden eyelashes.
Kitty is handled by Child Advocacy Resource and Evaluation (CARE) team director Dr. Jamye Coffman and physician Dr. Elizabeth Peeler. Kitty came to us along with her cousin Journey in April 2015, and works closely with the CARE team. Kitty is a spunky and sweet dog that loves to help calm patients during their exams and then playing hard during her breaks!
Neely is handled by Family Support Services director Jill Koss, child life specialists Amy Sandlin and Tori Thompson. Neely spends her time seeing patients and families on the surgery and trauma inpatient unit and the acute medical surgical inpatient unit. Neely is a GREAT listener! She helps kids and adults feel safe talking about big feelings and tough issues like trauma. You can frequently find her on the South Tower Lawn running, playing, chasing a ball, or trying to spend time with her favorite squirrel. Neely began her work at Cook Children’s in March 2019.
Steve is handled by Facility Dog Program Coordinator and child life specialist Laura Sonefeld, Child Life Zone Program Coordinator Bianca Erazo and child life specialist Lauren Bridge. Steve spends time with patients and families in the Child Life Zone, and fulfills dog consults in the Dodson Specialty Clinics and several inpatient areas across the hospital. Steve came to work at Cook Children's with Brienne in October 2019 and is the youngest facility dog at Cook Children's. Steve believes he is a lap dog, loves to make people laugh and loves any opportunity to play fetch.
Zuni is handled by recreational therapist, Valerie Lohmar. Zuni is the mild-mannered but spunky gal who works with patients in the Partial Hospitalization Program and on the inpatient Psychiatry unit. Zuni loves to use her skills as a great communicator, and you will frequently find her interacting with patients by giving handshakes, high fives and fist bumps. She's even been known to "speak!" Zuni loves any toy with a squeaker and is very fond of playing chase with her doggy friends! ! Zuni joined the team in August 2020.
For more information about Sit...Stay...PLAY, please contact us at SitStayPlay@cookchildrens.org.