More sick and injured children will soon have the comfort of a furry friend during visits to The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart, thanks to the addition of the hospital’s second facility dog – a male golden retriever named Sherlock.
Sherlock’s arrival was made possible due to a $100,300 grant from IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area, Inc., which will fund the addition of three more facility dogs in the coming months.
Following the success of the Children’s Hospital’s first facility dog – a female golden retriever named Sprout who works in the Pediatric Infusion Center and outpatient pediatric hematology/oncology office – Sherlock works with patients and families on the inpatient floors of the Children’s Hospital.
A fully trained and certified facility dog, Sherlock comes to Pensacola from Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization based in Milton, Georgia, that trains and provides service dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs. In order to bring Sherlock to The Children’s Hospital, his primary handler, Children’s Hospital manager Tiffany Cayton, has received specialized training through Canine Assistants.
“In the two years since Sprout arrived, she’s made such a strong impression on our patients, staff and community. The addition of a second dog to our team means more sick and injured children will have the comfort, support and motivation that only a facility dog can provide,” said Julia Humphries, facility dog coordinator for the Children’s Hospital. “Facility dogs have been shown in research to relieve pain, reduce stress, encourage socialization and motivate patients to stay mobile.”
Facility dogs like Sherlock wear their service-dog vest at all times. They are given regular trips outside and breaks in a quiet space at the Children’s Hospital. When not at work, the dogs live like normal pets, relaxing and playing with their handlers at home. The dogs are frequently bathed, via donated support from local groomer, Shampoochies, and also have spot clean-ups throughout the day as needed.
While working day-to-day in separate areas, Sherlock and Sprout cross paths occasionally and have become fast friends.
“Sherlock and Sprout have big fans in our small patients, but they also fulfill a unique need in serving our teenage patients, as well as our staff,” said Tiffany Cayton, manager of the Children’s Hospital’s medical/surgical unit and Sherlock’s handler. “The dogs have a gift for sensing where they are needed, so they’ll often approach siblings and parents. We follow their lead because our mission as a children’s hospital is to provide family-centered care. Putting the entire family at ease has a tremendous impact on the health outcomes of our patients.”
To support the facility-dog program, please call the Sacred Heart Foundation at 850-416-4660 or visit sacred-heart.org/foundation.