Therapy pets lend kids a helping paw at University Health’s vaccination sites – mySA

It’s a tale as old as modern medicine: kids hate getting shots. As a result, parents and medical professionals must sweeten the deal for the sake of the health and wellbeing of the youth. Doctors offices will stockpile glittering stickers, parents will make promises of candy or cherished fast food. Now that children ages 5-11 have been approved to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination, University Health is taking the “sting out of the shot” with pet therapy at their Wonderland of America’s vaccination site. 

Meet Laddie, a rough collie and therapy dog and the obvious star of the pop-up clinic. Born on June 2015, he is a Gemini, though by the look of his mane you’d think he’s a Leo. Laddie has been a certified Therapy Dog since turning one. Now, he is one in a fleet of nine animals (eight dogs and one “gorgeous” cat) that make getting the shot a little less intimidating (and a little more furry) for kids. His younger brother, Prince, is also a beloved member of the program. 

“The five to 11 year olds are a different group. Some of them are a little scared of the shot. We do have medical professionals here to talk to them and answer their parent’s questions if they have concerns. But we wanted to do something to make it a little more kid-friendly,” says Shelley Kofler, Senior Public Relations Manager with University Health System. 

Can’t you just get lost in all that fluff?

Abigail Im/MySA

For the past two weeks, Laddie and his friends have been stationed in the center, ready to greet kids after their shot. “It’s like their reward,” says Kofler as a group of children huddle around the Lassie look-alike. 

While the vaccination site pet team has only been in operation for two weeks, many of the pets have years of experience with comforting those in need. Previously, Laddie has visited classrooms, hospitals, convents and nursing homes. Since 2005, University Health’s Volunteer Services Department has been working with pet therapy programs to offer patients a more comforting experience. 

“The kids love it. I think the response has been great,” shares Hortencia Castano-Urbanowiez, Director of Volunteer Services at University Health System. 

Castano-Urbanowiez explains that while your own pet could …….


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