Once Upon a Pet Therapy Program

Carrie Trembinski

Story-time happens at 11:00 a.m. every day in the patient and family library at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.  It provides lively entertainment and a welcome distraction from the numerous appointments, treatments and procedures patients undergo at SickKids.  Story-time on Dec. 17, 2018 was a little furrier than usual as it featured the first reading of a brand-new book entitled Lucy vs. the Frown—a book all about the PetSmart Charities of Canada Paws for Hope Pet Therapy program at Sick Kids.

Created through a partnership between Sick Kids Foundation and PetSmart Charities of Canada with professional input from national pet therapy providers at Therapeutic Paws of Canada and St. John Ambulance, the book follows real-life pet therapy dog, Lucy, and her handler, Joanne, as they spend the day at Sick Kids searching for a frown they can help to turn upside-down. 

The four characters Lucy and Joanne meet throughout the pages of the storybook are current and former patients of Sick Kids, two of whom were present at the book launch. Click on the book cover below to read Lucy vs. the Frown and learn how therapy dogs help to reduce fear and anxiety, normalize blood pressure, provide encouragement and smiles to patients, families, visitors and care-providers at the hospital.

Caladonia, Ontario resident and Sick Kids’ ambassador, Tanika Jacobs, is one of the patients featured in the book and on its cover.  Recently, she was interviewed for a story for her community’s local online news outlet, Sachem.ca.  About being selected as a character for the book, Tanika said, “It’s awesome because you don’t get to say you’re in a book very often, and I can brag to all my friends.”

Five hundred copies of the book have been printed in its first edition and will be distributed to patients receiving pet therapy visits at the hospital. Annually, the PetSmart Charities of Canada Paws for Hope Pet Therapy Program makes more than 5,000 visits across departments including day surgery, surgical rehabilitation, out-patient clinics, the neo-natal intensive care unit and more.

“Pets have the remarkable ability to bring a sense of calm and normalcy to stressful situations, to offer us unconditional love and support when we need it the most,” explains David Haworth, DVM, Ph.D. and president of the leading animal welfare charity. “But that concept can be difficult to explain to adults, much less to children.  Lucy vs. the Frown helps everyone, young and old, to understand precisely how a little thing like pet therapy can make a very big difference in the experience of patients and families receiving care at Sick Kids.”

To view Lucy vs The Frown click here.

Since 2015, PetSmart Charities of Canada has been the lead donor to the Hospital for Sick Children’s (Sick Kids) Paws for Hope Pet Therapy Program.  Over the past three years, the leading funder of animal welfare has provided more than half a million dollars to help one of Canada’s most esteemed children’s hospitals to bring the healing power of wet-nosed, wagging-tailed dog therapists to young patients.

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