PetSmart Charities Grants a Furry New Friend to TGH Children’s Hospital

Jamie Powell, Tampa General Hospital Foundation

TGH welcomed a new pediatric employee last fall – one with fur! Thanks to grant support from PetSmart Charities, TGH Children’s Hospital received a full-time pediatric facility dog to provide animal-assisted therapy for pediatric patients. Belle works with pediatric inpatients, trauma and rehabilitation patients. She is accompanied by Child Life Specialists who are trained to incorporate Belle in patient visits. Belle’s responsibilities include providing companionship during minor procedures and scans and increasing feelings of security and well-being. She especially provides comfort for patient after traumatic events such as car accidents or family separation scenarios, support for patient and family at end-of life bereavement, non-pharmacological support for pain management and intervenes in rehabilitation treatment in activities of daily living or achieving specific therapy goals and functional outcomes.

One special friend Belle made is Gavin. For the past year, Gavin has been receiving IVIg infusions every 28 days. Gavin dreads these infusions, and, despite everyone’s best efforts, each session has been full of tears, kicking and screaming… until he met Belle. With Belle by his side, Gavin’s worries are lifted and he’s now able to tolerate his infusions without the fear that usually consumes him. After his first infusion with Belle, Gavin said, “It was 10 times better, no wait, 30 times better!” We’re so happy for this new friendship and we couldn’t be luckier to have this four-legged team member at TGH.

PetSmart Charities joined TGH to celebrate Belle’s first birthday at her “Birthday Pawty” attended by Gavin and his family, TGH Children’s Hospital staff, COO, Kelly Cullen and Valor Service Dogs, the organization who trained Belle and raised her to be ready for TGH Patients, free of cost. Additionally, the local PetSmart teams visited the pediatric patients during the holidays to deliver plush toys and spread cheer on the floor. Belle has been a symbol of happiness and perseverance for the frontline teams battling COVID-19, but it doesn’t stop there… PetSmart Charities is continuing to grow the facility dog program at TGH Children’s Hospital through grant support. In 2022, the team will welcome a second facility dog, additional Child Life staff support and launch a new research protocol studying the impacts of Belle and facility dogs on patient progress in our inpatient rehabilitation unit.

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