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Meet the furry new specialist treating kids at Texas Children's Hospital

Meet the furry new specialist treating kids at Texas Children's

Angus therapy dog Texas Children's Hospital West
Angus is bringing smiles and more to Katy patients. Photo courtesy of Texas Children's Hospital

Dogs bring joy to life — be it mundane daily tasks, an especially stressful event, or a day at the park. But therapy dogs are truly a rare breed, as is the case with Angus, the new facility animal assigned to Texas Children’s Hospital — West Campus in Katy.

The two-year-old Labrador/golden retriever mix is the first assigned to serve at the west campus and joins the hospital’s five other facility dogs as part of Texas Children’s Pawsitive Play Program. That program is designed to enhance the emotional well-being of pediatric patients by reducing their anxiety, perception of pain, and fear of hospitalization, a release notes.

As is the case with therapy dogs, Angus has trained his whole life at Canine Companions in Houston and thus is ready to be deployed for pets, scratches, and laughs with the young patients. He underwent a two-year, extensive and specialized training program and learned over 40 commands, can walk safely on a leash near assistive or medical devices; pull toy wagons; retrieve all kinds of items; push drawers closed; and interact with patients in a calm and appropriate way.

Raised by volunteer puppy raisers in Colorado from 8 weeks old until about 20 months old, Angus then entered professional training in Dallas at Canine Companion's South Central Training Center.

“These dogs break down walls and barriers that a human can’t with our patients,” said Meg Gustafson, Child Life Specialist and Angus’ handler, in a statement. “Having the dogs around them gets them talking, helps them achieve their goals, gives us insight, and makes their time with us much more enjoyable.”

Angus has also been tasked with more serious therapeutic aid, specifically tasks such as assisting with patients’ motivation and rehabilitation, which can be trying for adults, let alone children.

“He loves getting in bed with kids and snuggling with them, but he’s also really good at motivating kids to get up and walk around after surgery,” Gustafson added. “We co-treated with physical therapy for a kid and it went phenomenal! After, when we were outside of the patient’s room, the physical therapist said ‘That was a completely different kid in there.’ It’s so exciting to see him doing such good work and knowing this is only the beginning!”