Archive for the ‘Memorable Pet Therapy Visits’ Category

The Power of a Therapy Dog Visit

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Recently retired team John Smead and Kasey shared the following experience with us at Children’s Hospital of Orange County:

John told us about a special day at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (Anaheim, CA):

Kacey and John went into a room with a 9 year old boy with leukemia who had not really been eating and didn’t even want to get out of bed.

When his mom read him the card that we give all the kids (there is a part that says she is a picky eater and shy when she meets people for the first time), he looked at Kacey…he then got out of bed and sat next to her and said “wow sometimes you don’t feel like eating either – nice to meet you Kacey”.


Blue Giving Stress Relief During Final Exams

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Blue spreading cheer during finals


Friday, October 16th, 2015

Stryker 1Dorothy, Jim and their wonderful boy Stryker recently visited Royale Health in Mission Viejo.
They asked if anyone was afraid of dogs and 1 woman said, “Yes” so we encouraged her to move a row back and not be in the circle where we were going to walk around and introduce Stryker to everyone & she did. It only took 5 min or so for her to speak out that she wanted to try to pet him. Then she wanted to give him a treat & was very proud of herself for being brave. She did great and continued to talk about how much she liked him. It was so cute.

AHF Pet Therapy Team Comforts Patient With Severe Depression

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Mia for MissionIn November, Mission Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit (located in Laguna Beach, California) opened their doors to a Pet Therapy Program, which has been offered by the hospital as a Community Benefit service to patients for the past 8 years. Over a dozen dedicated Pet Teams have volunteered their time in an effort to support the healing journey for patients, and most recently, two teams have opened their hearts to the behavioral health patients. Recently, staff shared a story of a patient who was significantly changed due to a visit with Mia, who has been a canine volunteer with Mission Hospital for 7 years.

“We had a patient with a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder who experienced major loss and was having a very difficult time coping.  She suffered with thoughts of suicide, insomnia, and severe social isolation. She had these symptoms for days and had not attended any patient groups. While she initially declined pet therapy, further prompting encouraged her to participate. Initially, she simply sat next to Mia, but after a few minutes, she began gingerly petting her and her physical affect began to change. She walked out of the group room with a small smile on her face. From this day until discharge, she became more and more visible on the unit, began sleeping better, and no longer had thoughts of suicide. We are convinced that she would have been here far longer if she hadn’t been given the opportunity to make that initial step to spend some time with Mia.”

It is connections like this one that make our work at Mission a sacred experience and help to bring wholeness to our patients, our co-workers and our community. Many thanks to volunteers Pam and Daleen who take hours from their day to prepare their dogs and spend time at our ministry; without them, these sacred moments would not be possible.

Mocha at Mission Hospital

Sunday, December 8th, 2013


The Tayanaka’s therapy dog, Mocha, really enjoys her job visiting patients

at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, CA.  Looks like she might stay for the afternoon!

Therapy cat, Bentley visits a cat-lover by special request

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Bentley Cat VisitDiana Kramer, a life-long cat lover who is struggling with chemotherapy and radiation, was thrilled to receive a visit from Bentley, on her birthday.  “ He was so soft, and such a chubbo! He sat in my lap and purred.  That was lovely.”

After Bentley’s visit, Diana went out to dinner for the first time in many months, and her children believe that her ‘cat therapy’ was the reason she felt well enough.

Thank you Pet Partners, for your invaluable gift.   Kathleen Lacock, her daughter


Pet Partner Team Roxey and Sandy help Autistic children

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Sandy and RoxyRoxey (a Shetland Sheepdog) and her handler, Sandy assist a speech therapist with her autistic clients once a month. The boy is pre-school age and just started regular classes at a regular pre-school.  Sandy has been working with them for about a year.

The mother  of the boy is in the session the whole time taking notes while the therapist works on vocabulary and sentence  structure.  They often try to pick vocabulary words that Roxey can illustrate.  One word he was having particular problems with was “sausage.”  So Sandy took sausage “looking” treats for the boy to feed Roxey.  If he said the word correctly, he got to toss the treat to Roxey.  We’ve also been working on conjugating verbs, so we go through actions like “Roxey is sitting,” and “Roxey sat.”  Sometimes his vocabulary words include things Roxey can wear:  sunglasses, hat, feathers, etc.  For Halloween, “ghost” was a word for the boy, so Roxey came dressed as a ghost.  Another time, “basket” was a word, so  Sandy strapped a basket onto Roxey’s back, and the boy put other vocabulary word items into her basket.  Roxey especially loves sessions when there are food vocabulary words because she often gets to eat.

Sandy and Roxey have just started working with a little girl who loves animals, so Roxey is there to motivate her.  Most of our first session was Roxey being a model for the opposite of the word being taught (over/under, front/back), body parts (leg, ear, nose), and feeding treats to when she got something right.  The girl was being taught to greet people, so Roxey would wave to her and she would say “hello” to Roxey.

Sandy and Roxey love their role to help autistic children

AHF Pet Partner team Jan and Jonah

Monday, February 18th, 2013

During the past year, Jan Haderlie and Jonah, her 5-year-old Shetland Sheepdog, have been valuable partipants in Project Positive Assertive Cooperative Kids (P.A.C.K.) at the University of California -Irvine.  P.A.C.K.  is a federally funded, non-medication research study to examine whether adding therapy dogs in a 12-week cognitive-behavioral group therapy intervention is more effective than traditional cognitive-behavioral group therapy without therapy dogs in improving self-esteem, self-regulation and pro-social behaviors in 7- to 9-year-old children who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The P.A.C.K. children have multiple opportunities to bond with Jan and Jonah during their twice-weekly sessions. At each session, children rotate among three stations. The children create arts and crafts projects at Jan and Jonah’s station. The children also have the opportunity to earn the privilege of having one-on-one time with Jan and Jonah during group therapy when they demonstrate on-task behaviors, such as attending to the speaker and making contributions during discussions.

During reading time, the children pair up and read dog stories to each other and to Jonah. Jonah’s impeccable eye contact with the pages of the story amazes the children. One of the children’s favorite P.A.C.K. activities is giving basic commands to their four-legged friends, which demonstrates self-regulation and assertiveness by having a confident voice and a calm body. During this activity, they are also practicing pro-social behaviors by complimenting the dogs for following directions.

P.A.C.K. is extremely grateful to Jan, Jonah and the other Pet Partners teams participating in the project. For more information on the study, visit

AHF Pet Partner teams participate in Ability Awareness Day

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Bathgate Elementary School in Mission Viejo hosted its second annual “All Abilities Day” Feb. 8, giving students the opportunity to get an idea of what it’s like to have disabilities.

Students visited stations that simulated various disabilities and met therapy dogs Jake and Macy.

Guest speakers talked to students about the importance of accepting others with disabilities.

Bathgate Elementary School students take turns petting Jake, led down the line by therapy animal handler and volunteer Joe Frey. 

PHOTO: ISAAC ARJONILLA, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER Pet therapy volunteer Daleen Comer walks Macy by a line of Bathgate Elementary students. Macy was rescued from Taiwan in October 20 1 0 and brought to the U.S. A year later, she became a therapy dog.

Don and Carole Melvin’s Memorable Visit at CHOC

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Seasoned pet partner teams Carole and Don Melvin had what they called a “very unusual experience” at CHOC (Children’t Hospital of Orange County). There were several people in a room on the PICU floor so Carole asked the nurse whether she should go in or not. As it turned out the girl in the room, about 12 years old, had passed away just a few minutes before and, yes, the family did want Carole to come in with Missy (the dog on the right). Carole spent about 45 minutes in the room with Missy comforting the girl’s siblings, a couple of the girl’s friends, and several of the family.  One of the girl’s friends was laying on the bed with the girl so Carole placed Missy between them and Missy gave them every ounce of love within her.  Then some of the family took turns holding Missy. Occasionally Carole and I are a little weary  the morning we’re scheduled to go to CHOC and think it would be nice to take the morning off. In the 7 years we’ve been at CHOC we can never anticipate what circumstances we’ll face on any given day but when anything near like this happens, we know why we go.  As long as our girls are able to go and our health holds up, we’ll be there for the kids and their family.