HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — Penn State Health Children’s Hospital has a new “Captain” at the helm of their ship.
Captain, a golden retriever, will begin his job working in two outpatient clinics through the clinic’s facility dog program. He will help young patients at the orthopedics and neurophysiology pediatric specialty clinics located at 30 Hope Drive on the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center campus.
Michelle Flynn, a certified child life specialist and Derek Flynn, a physician assistant in the Division of Pediatric Orthopedics, will work closely with Captain as his handlers.
Captain will spend his time helping pediatric patients receiving outpatient orthopedic, physical medicine and rehabilitation and neurophysiology services. He will help distract patients during pin removal procedures, demonstrate casting for bone injuries, help clinical teams with range of motion assessments, help patients learn how electroencephalograms work, and he will be with patients to provide canine companionship and a calming presence.
“I am thrilled to work with Captain and expand our facility dog program,” Michelle Flynn said. “So many patients and families will benefit from Captain’s unique role and skillset.”
Captain was raised and trained by Canine Assistants in Georgia, where he worked with kids at a children’s hospital and outpatient center. Michelle Flynn and Derek Flynn (who aren’t related) traveled to Georgia to meet Captain and learn more about his job.
The Children’s Hospital was the first hospital in Pennsylvania to establish a facility dog program in 2016, when golden retriever Kaia started working. Kaia works in radiology and radiation oncology with her primary handler, Ashley Kane, where she supports patients. Kane is the manager of the Child Life Program.
Pilot, a black golden retriever, joined the team in 2021. Pilot tends to patients in the Pediatric Surgical Care Unit and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with his primary handler, Stacy Gloudemans.
All the dogs are full time employees who spend 40 hours a week on the job. They do receive downtime, naps, and walks.
The facility dog program is separate from the Pet Therapy program, but both are very important to the patients at the hospital. Facility dogs have extensive training in the health care environment and learn specific tasks to help children cope with major and minor procedures. Pet Therapy dogs offer companionship.
Donors to Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, including PetSmart, Spirit of Children, H&S Industrial’s “Hope in the Air” Gala and individual donor contributions.
It is sustained by ongoing funding from the Kelso Facility Dog Endowment, which was established by an anonymous donor in honor of their dog, a Belgian Malinois named Kelso.