MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Hundreds of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital employees waited anxiously for the much anticipated introduction of new employees that are starting a brand new program at the hospital.
“Today is their first day so it was a huge day for our hospital to see the program get kicked off,” said Shawn Bresher, St. Jude Child Life Director.
These employees are not like the doctors, nurses and scientists already on the St. Jude campus. They walk around on four furry legs!
Meet Puggle, a golden retriever and Huckleberry, a golden doodle, the two newest hires are trained service dogs starting up the Paws at Play program.
"He has been working his whole life for this role," Brittany Reed, a St. Jude Child Life Specialist said.
Puggle and Huckleberry are under 2 years old and have been professionally trained since they were 4 days old. They’ll be helping St. Jude patients each day handle the stress and hardship of their treatment with things like MRI’s, taking medications and even getting back to walking again.
"It can sometimes be hard due to pain after a surgery or just that fear of walking following a surgery and so we'll work closely with our rehab team and give them a little bit of motivation to give Puggle a walk," Reed said.
"That dog has a therapeutic goal when it walks in the room and so that dog is seeing 4 to 6 patients a day," Bresher said.
When Puggle and Huckleberry are on campus, they're working. They've even been given their own ID badges. Each day, the dogs have a clear objective.
"We want those dogs to go in there and make this the best day they can for the children," Bresher said.
“(They) provide a bit of positivity while they’re here while they’re here and some joy while they’re going through their treatment,” said Reed.
Even though Monday is the first day of the program, there’s already discussions about expanding to include even more adorable, highly trained pups.