Animal Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy is known to have many positive effects on patients of all ages.  Research shows that animal therapy can lower stress and anxiety levels, improve blood pressure, increase patient mobility, and provide an alternative focus from pain.

For more than 90 years, animal therapy has been in place in some form in our pediatric care programs at U-M Health.  While much has changed since the days of ducklings paddling in tubs alongside patient beds, our commitment to the healing power of the human-animal bond remains strong.

Paws4Patients

As part of our animal therapy program, we are proud to have five full-time service dogs on our team as part of the Lipschutz-Danzansky Family Paws4Patients Facility Dog Program, which launched in 2016. 

Our hospital dogs, Anna, Bindi, Fawn, Bugle and McCoy were trained by Canine Assistants to work in a hospital setting. They were specifically matched to Michigan Medicine based on our needs and the types of patients we care for.

While Bindi and Fawn work-full time in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Bugle and McCoy work full-time at Michigan Medicine and Anna shares her time between Mott and some of the adult inpatient units at Michigan Medicine. No matter where they are, all dogs are here to comfort patients and families through bedside visits, as well as motivate and assist during certain types of therapy and rehabilitation. Additionally, our staff are always happy to see the dogs working with their patients.

Meet Anna

therapy dog

Anna was one of our first hospital dogs leading the pack since 2016, and is part of the Spiritual Care team at Michigan Medicine. She loves supporting patients, families, and staff of all ages throughout the hospital. Anna cares for people throughout Michigan Medicine: rounding with the Adult Palliative Care Consult Service, caring for parents and children in Mott, helping with staff care and continuing education events, and supporting medical students in the Health, Spirituality, and Religion program. On her breaks, she loves napping with her stuffed animals and visiting the chipmunks and squirrels around the hospital grounds. She is known for being petite, strong-willed, and giving the best hugs. Anna is handled by Christina Wright, Lori-Jene Brazier, Sara Adler, and Lewis Eberhart. Anna was born February 25, 2015.

Meet Bindi

therapy dog

Bindi joined Paws4Patients in March of 2018 and spent her first two years at Mott as part of the Wayne and Shelly Jones Family Center team. Currently, Bindi spends her time at Mott on a variety of pediatric units so those patients can receive the benefits of animal therapy. Bindi is sweet, patient and loves to be with people. She is happiest when she is the center of attention and getting lots of pets. Bindi is known for loving everyone, stopping for drive-by pets in the hallway and always wanting a treat. She is handled by Ann Hendrick, Heather Meyer and Anne Chen. Bindi was born March 2, 2016.

Meet Fawn

therapy dog

Fawn joined Paws4Patients in 2019 and is part of the Stepping Stones Pediatric Palliative Care Program team at Mott. Fawn is super smart, sweet and silly. She loves coming to work every day to help care for patients with serious illness and their families. When she isn't at work, Fawn loves watching ducks, playing fetch with her friends, cuddling with her family, learning new words, eating snacks, and playing outside. Fawn is handled by Rachel Brownson, Elizabeth Goudie, Tricia Keefer, Prianka Shakil Brown, Becca Wright and Erinn Louttit. Fawn was born November 24, 2017. 

Meet Bugle

Therapy dog Bugle.

Bugle joined Paws4Patients in June 2021 and works at Michigan Medicine with our adult patients and staff. Bugle primarily visits patients in the No One Dies Alone (NODA) & Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) on various UH units. He also spends one day seeing patients on 6B and in the Adult Emergency Department each week. Bugle is handled by Amanda Schoettinger, Chelsea Mills and Valerie Evans. Bugle’s nickname is Snuggle Bug (given by his mom), and he truly enjoys seeing patients and spreading lots of joy and love to staff throughout the hospitals. Bugle so badly wants to catch a rabbit or bird friend whenever he sees them, and he spends his spare time snuggling, napping and playing with his favorite giant rainbow ball. Bugle was born June 16, 2019.

Meet McCoy

Therapy dog McCoy

McCoy joined Paws4Patients in August 2021 and works with his teammates in Adult Psychiatry and The Adult Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) at Michigan Medicine. Our adult psych team hosted a puppy shower to welcome McCoy. He loves playing fetch, watching the squirrels, and his favorite toy is a squeaky pig. McCoy is handled by Ryan Woolwine, Jennifer Eipperle, and Angela Martell. Bugle and McCoy are brothers, so McCoy was also born on June 16, 2019.

Parker - Deceased

Therapy dog Parker

Parker joined the Paws4Patients team in October of 2019. Parker worked with the team in the Nyman Family Unit for Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellness at Mott. He was super goofy, snuggly and loved cool weather — unfortunately, he was with us for a short time due to a terminal illness. He made an extraordinary impact in the short time he was with us, and we are grateful for the time we had together. We will always remember him bounding through the snow during his first Michigan winter.

Denver - Retired

therapy dog

Denver, along with Anna, started the Paws4Patients program in 2016. He was part of the team in Mott’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for 5 years and retired in 2021. Denver is patient, gentle and loved to hang out with patients and their families in the PICU. Denver loves going for walks on trails in the woods. His favorite movie is “The Secret Life of Pets” and his favorite actor is Scooby Doo. Denver was handled by Joel Maier, Michele Derheim, Bethany Petersen, Lena Arend and Shae Maier. Denver was born in April 2015.

For more information about our Paws4Patients program, contact:

Lindsay K. Heering, MS, CCLS
Administrative Director
Child & Family Life Department
lhadden@med.umich.edu 

And remember to follow our dogs on Instagram!

Therapaws

In addition to our hospital dog program, we also host visits from Therapaws of Michigan. Therapaws teams have been visiting University of Michigan Health patients since 1987.  These volunteers took a break during the pandemic and are returning during the summer of 2022. Therapaws volunteers (handler and dog) are matched with units and visit patients during regularly scheduled visits. Unit Hosts select and prepare patients to receive visits from these canine companions. Therapaws of Michigan uses a strict screening protocol to ensure the selection of well-mannered dogs of sound temperament and good health.

Under the supervision of trained volunteers, these special dogs visit patients in a variety of settings: their inpatient rooms; during physical and occupational therapy sessions; in waiting rooms, and in other settings deemed appropriate by hospital staff.

Through the Therapaws Pet By Rx program, special requests for dog visits can be accommodated if a team is available outside regularly scheduled visits.  To schedule a visit between a Mott patient and a therapy dog, speak to the patient’s unit host, nurse or doctor who will work with our Volunteer Services department to arrange the visit.

Safety and Infection Control

Our facility dog and volunteer-dog handlers always get permission before a dog enters a patient’s room.

To further protect the health of our patients, dogs are unable to visit children who are under isolation precautions.  Dogs are bathed on regular schedules and handlers follow strict hygiene and maintenance standards.  Everyone who pets the dogs should cleanse their hands before and after to limit the spread of germs.

If you are uncomfortable around dogs or allergic to them, please let the dog’s handler or one of your caregivers know.

Supporting animal-assisted therapy

Our animal therapy programs are made possible only through the generosity of donors.  Click here to support our animal therapy programs.