The newest member of the Child Life team at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California is friendly, furry and responsive to the needs of patients and families. His name is Yogo. He is a medium-sized black labradoodle. His official working title is Facility Dog. He works a full time schedule, and he plays an important role in enhancing the family-friendly environment of care.
Yogo was recruited to the Northern California team by Child Life Specialist Katherine Davis, who also is Yogo’s primary handler. Davis recognized the value of pet therapy programs early on in her career. She worked with facility dogs at other children’s hospitals and has seen how much animal-assisted therapies make a difference in the treatment of children. “I knew that Shriners Hospital patients would benefit greatly from a facility dog,” she says.
“Facility dogs are carefully and responsibly bred and raised to achieve certain qualities and characteristics,” says Davis. “But what really makes Yogo a great dog is his personality! He’s very laid back and isn’t startled by anything. He loves being pet and scratched by people, and he’s great with children.
“These qualities allow Yogo to join our child life team in supporting patients arriving for surgery, seeing doctors in clinic and in other patient care areas. Yogo can help children understand their diagnoses, play doctor, and be the best listener. He can also help with rehabilitation goals by motivating children to move, throw, walk and brush him,” Davis adds.
The child life team hosts group medical play weekly to help our patients understand their treatment and process medical events, and Davis says “Yogo is the best patient.” He enhances the experience for kids who can’t verbally express themselves or are not yet ready to talk about their experiences in the hospital.
“Yogo is an excellent listener and is tolerant of most “treatments” kids throw at him. His patience, wordless companionship, and love of hugs make him a great addition to the child life team,” says Davis.
Yogo came to the Northern California Shriners Hospital through Canine Angels Service Teams, an organization that trains service dogs specifically for children. When he was 9-weeks old, he was sent to a puppy raiser in Montana to grow up and begin his training. It turns out that his puppy raiser, Peggy Spencer, has a connection to the Northern California Shriners Hospital. Spencer’s daughter Corinne was a patient when the hospital opened in Sacramento in 1997 and was closely connected to our pet programs.
Peggy said, “Our daughter Corinne received her service dog Rosie from the Shriners Hospital in San Francisco. We took part in several trainings in Sacramento. Corinne went off to college where Rosie made so much possible and gave me confidence that all would be well,” said Spencer.
“When Rosie was retired and we went to receive Corinne’s second dog, I was asked if I wanted to puppy raise again. Being a puppy raiser is a way for me to give back to the program. As difficult as it is to turn the dog in for advanced training, seeing the partnership makes it all worthwhile. I had not been told that Yogo would be placed as a Facility Dog for Shriners, but was told that I was going to love the match. I am so pleased and proud to have been part of the process. It feels like coming full circle. Corinne aged out of Shriners but feels connected again!” she added.