Children’s hospital therapy dogs get their own trading cards

Therapy Dog Trading CardsEleven-year-old Daphne, of Liverpool, loves swimming, but she doesn’t like taking baths. Nine-year-old Coletrane, of Skaneateles, also prefers to skip baths, and 7-year-old Sebastian, from Sandy Creek, would rate getting his teeth brushed two thumbs down — that is, if he had thumbs.

Daphne, Coletrane and Sebastian aren’t a bunch of hygiene-challenged children. They are a golden retriever, a Shi-Tzu/Maltese mix and a toy poodle — the three therapy dogs that regularly visit young patients at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. Their hygiene preferences, or lack thereof, are a matter of public record because the hospital has issued trading cards, each with a color photo of a dog on the front as well as some personal information listed on the back.

Sue Karl, certified child life specialist at Upstate Golisano, dug up the idea to feature the dogs on their own calling cards.

“We give the cards to the kids in anticipation of the dog’s visit,” Karl said. “The cards take the uncertainty out of the visit, and uncertainty is a big fear in a hospital for kids. So the cards are a great way to start the relationship between the child and the dog.”

The result is often puppy love.

“It’s amazing how a sweet, friendly dog can motivate a child and brighten his or her day,” Karl said. “It’s almost instantaneous, the big smile that comes across a child’s face when Daphne, Coletrane or Sebastian come to visit.”

The dogs usually visit about 15 children each time they go to the hospital, spending about 10 minutes with each. For some, Karl said, the visits are too short. “Many of the kids – and parents, too – don’t want the dogs to leave.”

The trading cards provide the young patients with a keepsake and reminder of the furry friend that helped them feel better.

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