Facility dogs back at work at Norton Healthcare

Facility dogs back at work at Norton Healthcare

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - There is a team that is back at work roaming the hallways at an area hospital.

They’re interacting with patients and staff, lifting spirits in this overwhelming time.

The team of heroes is a team of ... dogs.

Most kids don’t spend their lives in and out of a hospital. Clay Harris does. He’s 13 years old and has had a number of heart issues. He’s back at Norton Children’s Hospital, this time struggling with his energy and oxygen levels.

“It’s hard being in a hospital,” Clay’s mother, Nicole Pendino, said. “We’ve been here two weeks, and there are only certain things that will get this kid smiling.”

Harris was all smiles when a special visitor walked into his room. Her name is Yarie. She’s a facility dog with Norton Healthcare’s Heel, Dog, Heal program. Yarie’s job is to provide comfort and healing to patients, their families, and hospital staff.

“Unconditional love, non-judgmental and it’s normalizing,” Norton Manager of Child Life & Expressive Therapies Heather Stohr said. “Many people have animals and pets at home.”

Yarie and her eight other facility dogs are back on the job.

“They were off for 40 working days,” Stohr said, adding that the coronavirus pandemic forced them to take the time off. “We decided to have our facility dogs stay healthy at home.”

Heather Stohr’s partner at work is Juno.

“I missed her greatly when she wasn’t here,” Stohr said. “Many of our employees were just saying that the hospital just isn’t the same without them. Our employees rely a lot on the facility dogs. They deal with a lot of stress, and having the dogs here is a great way for them to destress a little bit."

The dogs have brought back a sense of normalcy to everyone. Because who doesn’t smile when they see a loving dog’s face?

“Just a great experience for him to be able to love on an animal when he can’t be with his own dog in the hospital,” Pendino said.

The facility dogs are not allowed in isolation rooms. The Heel, Dog, Heal program is funded through the Norton Healthcare Foundation and Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Click here for more information on the facility dogs at Norton Healthcare.

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