Houston, TX

New Dog at Children’s Memorial Hermann to Provide Rx of TLC

Betsy Denson

The Facility Dog Team with Pilot and DexterChildren’s Memorial Hermann Hospital

There's now a second dog making the rounds at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. According to a Memorial Hermann press release, Pilot, a 2-year-old black lab/golden retriever mix has joined Dexter to help pediatric patients.

Pilot and Dexter are facility dogs - which are different than therapy dogs. A facility dog is a specially trained dog who partners with a human facilitator to work in one place. Pilot's facilitator, Renee Lee, is a Certified Child Life Specialist who received special training to work with Pilot.

“While Pilot loves to do a lot of the things that normal dogs do, he still knows how to be a professional,” said Lee. “He can sit still, follow commands and be gentle with patients. We have already seen him making a difference in the lives and emotions of some of our youngest patients.”

Pilot's biggest job is to put kids at ease, helping them to make progress in their treatment and distract them during procedures or times when they may be in pain due to their illness.

Established in February 2019, the Facility Dog Program at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital has been successful in providing psycho-social care to children during their hospitalizations. The dogs come free of charge by Canine Companions.

According to Guide Dogs of America, facility dogs are also used in schools for special needs children and in victim advocate centers and court houses helping victims through the stress and anxiety of testifying in a criminal trial. Residential centers for individuals with disabilities also use facility dogs as does hospice care.

Interacting with a loving dog has many mental and physical health benefits. UCLA Health said that the animal therapy lowers blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health - and even releases hormones like phenylethylamine which is what we also get from chocolate.

The release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin are additional hormones that boost our spirits.

UCLA Health said that the dogs help those with head injuries and Alzheimer’s disease recall older memories and put temporal events in the correct order, which helps with day to day functioning.

Those who have a dog may already know what MVPs dogs are, but for kids in the hospital who don't - Pilot and Dexter are among their favorite health care providers.

If you want to see Pilot in action, please view this downloadable video.

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