OKLAHOMA CITY – If you’re an animal lover, dogs may tend to brighten your day.
That’s why a local organization recently received a four-legged companion to help families during one of the most stressful times of their lives.
The Children’s Hospital VOLUNTEERS charity has brought on a golden retriever as a full-time caregiver and companion for patients and families at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center.
Targa, an 18-month-old female golden retriever, is Oklahoma’s first dedicated hospital therapy dog. Organizers say she was specifically trained to work in a hospital.
The Children’s Hospital VOLUNTEERS and Edmond North High School’s Bring a Light to Others program raised funds to bring Targa to the team and expand the Paws for Purpose pet therapy programming at the hospital.
Research shows therapy animals in hospital settings can reduce anxiety, stress and fears in patients.
Sara Jacobson, executive director of The Children’s Hospital VOLUNTEERS, has witnessed the power of pet therapy and knew that the hospital would benefit from a full-time therapy dog.
“Our current volunteer pet therapy program is amazing,” said Jacobson. “Kids look forward to Wednesday nights when therapy animals visit our group play area. They build strong relationships with our dogs and volunteers. Expanding to add a first-ever hospital facility therapy dog was a dream.”
BALTO ended up raising more than $271,000 to help fund the Paws for Purpose program.
“She’s not a dog who was a pet and is just well-trained; she’s been groomed to be in the hospital setting,” Skyler Munday, facility dog coordinator for Children’s, said.
Targa has a calm demeanor, kind spirit and loves to snuggle with patients.
“We are sending up to Oklahoma City our heart. You’re getting an extraordinary dog with magical abilities and the love and care of all of us here,” said Jennifer Arnold, founder and executive director of Canine Assistants.