Paws and Play Program Launches at Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital
By Amanda Marrone

Paws and Play Program Launches at Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital

June 22, 2017   |   Therapy & Counselors  

In honor of Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital launching its new program, Paws and Play, on Wednesday, June 21, the hospital’s first facility dog—Professor Bunsen Honeydew—reunited with his pediatric patients.    


It was a bittersweet moment when Aiden Shaefer, a 2-year-old leukemia patient, was reunited with Professor, who has been part of Aiden’s treatment process since the beginning. According to his mom, Aiden looks forward to attending hospital visits because he knows his friend Professor will be there waiting for him.

“When we go over the bridge to come to the hospital we say ‘Professor Professor.’ It is not ‘we are going to see your doctors today,’ it is ‘you are going to see Professor today.’ Our last week in the hospital Aiden did not want to play anymore, he lost all of his energy. We got home and he stopped moving. He didn’t want to walk. Didn’t want to stand. When we got to the hospital on Monday and Aiden saw Professor, he goes, ‘Mommy, walk Professor,’ and he got up and walked the dog and that was it, Aiden hasn’t stopped moving since,” says Denise Shaefer, Aiden’s mom.

The new Paws and Play program was made possible by a grant from PetSmart Charities. With the launch of the program Mount Sinai is now the first hospital in New York state to pair a Certified Child Life Specialist with a trained facility dog to provide animal assisted therapy.
 

pet smart charities gives mount sinai checkMark Van Holden/AP Images for PetSmart Charities

Members of Mount Sinai and PetSmart, including David Haworth, president of PetSmart Charities, and Diane Rode, director of the Child Life and Creative Arts Department at Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital, attend a check presentation at Mount Sinai's Kravis Children’s Hospital on June 21.

 

David Haworth, president of PetSmart Charities, explained the importance of programs like Paws and Play. “I think it's easy to say that the Paws and Play program will bring a lot of joy and normalcy and nonjudgmental love—just everything positive about a pet interaction," he says. "Professor is an amazing dog and he is going to bring a lot joy to this place. This is our eleventh program we have across the country and in Canada. And so this is our motivation.”

In an effort by Mount Sinai’s Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department to help children and families adjust to hospitalization and cope with illness, a facility dog seemed like the right addition to the hospital. 

Diane Rode, director of the Child Life and Creative Arts Department at Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital, explained the importance the facility dog will have in the hospital. “We were really looking for a facility dog concept where the same animal will become part of the [health care] team. Just like you would have a doctor on your team, and you have a social worker on your team, and you have a child life specialist on your team, and you have an art therapist on your team," Rode says.
 

twin boys play with service dogMark Van Holden/AP Images for PetSmart Charities

Aiden Shaefer (left) plays with Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital's facility dog, Professor Bunsen Honeydew, alongside his twin brother.
 

Professor Bunsen Honeydew will be a full-time employee at Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital, putting in a 40-hour workweek and clocking in five days a week. Certified child life specialists, Ali Spike and Toshiko Nonaka, will work with Professor across a variety of settings to help patients. Professor provides a therapeutic distraction in many different clinical environments such as the oncology clinic, general surgical environments, intensive care unit, bone marrow unit, and treatment rooms.

Although Professor has only been at the hospital for two months, he appears to have already made an impact on the lives of the patients he has touched. Professor has the ability to provide a therapeutic distraction for children by lying with them while they go through painful or anxiety-inducing procedures. 

“I think that the things that dogs can do for kids—even kids who are afraid of dogs have fell in love with Professor—is just so reassuring, it is like a piece of home. It is something that loves them without being a parent or doctor. It is something that they can relate to. It is amazing,” says Shaefer, Aiden's mom, says about the benefits of the new Paws and Play program.


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Main image: Aiden Shaefer (right) is reunited with Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital's facility dog, Professor Bunsen Honeydew, alongside his twin brother.
Mark Van Holden/AP Images for PetSmart Charities