Swedish's facility dogs: a hospital's best friends

March 23, 2022 Swedish Spiritual Care Team

[5 minute read]

  • It's National Puppy Day, so we're celebrating our Swedish facility dogs, Aulani and Jared!

  • Aulani and Jared work with our Spiritual Care Team to support patients and caregivers.

  • Our facility dogs must pass rigorous training programs and aptitude and temperament tests.    

During a pediatric patient's recent recovery at Swedish, nurses and attendants struggled to inspire the young patient to get out of bed, or even eat. With walking a vital part of recovery, the young patient's caregivers needed to find a way to motivate them.

It seemed like a job for Aulani, a special Swedish team member whose professional qualifications include four legs, big brown eyes, a wet nose and a wagging tail. 

From first meeting, Aulani sparked something in the young patient, and suddenly they were eagerly accepting a walk around the floor. And soon, even playing a few games. The patient’s parent said their outlook completely changed for the better once Aulani began visiting, with the patient even requesting Aulani’s company a few times after that.

As a facility dog, Aulani supports both our patients and our caregivers. As members of the Swedish team, Aulani and her canine co-worker, Jared, represent hope on paws—encouraging patients and caregivers, especially during challenging times in recovery from illness.

Aulani and Jared are handled by Swedish Spiritual Care Team chaplains Rev. Ann Snowberger and Gretchen Covey. The dogs were extensively trained in the Canine Companions for Independence program. Canine Companions' facility dogs must meet a long list of requirements and pass rigorous examinations that test for numerous qualities, including temperament and skills aptitude. Only then are dogs placed in a two-year training program.

Jared, one of our Swedish facility dogs. 

Swedish handlers also require intensive training, education and evaluation before they graduate as a final match with a canine companion.

“Aulani's specific qualities make her well-suited for her role as a facility dog with Swedish's Spiritual Care Team,” Rev. Snowberger says. “She has a gentle and kind spirit and is particularly calm at all times.”

The results of this dedication and extensive training are two lovable furry friends that support Swedish patients and caregivers. Both dogs know 42 basic commands and are continually learning more. Aulani and Jared are both facility dogs, a designation with different training requirements than a service dog. Jared was also recently certified as a therapy dog. 

Aulani has also been trained to participate in interactive games, which are designed to achieve better outcomes of care. For example, one roleplaying game involves pediatric patients playing a veterinarian who examines Aulani. This game helps to normalize medical equipment and care plans. Patients may request visits from Aulani or Jared dependent on their medical care needs and location in the hospital.

Aulani regularly visits Swedish First Hill, where she inspires smiles, laughter, and positive physical engagement. When not helping our patients, Aulani and Jared support our caregivers. Departments can request visits with either canine team member, and Aulani and Jared visit caregivers during visits from Swedish's Spiritual Care team.

Swedish is dedicated to supporting the whole of each person in our midst – mind, body, and spirit. Spiritual Care offers broad and diverse interventions that address social, emotional, and spiritual needs.  

To learn more about Swedish's Canine Companions program visit Canine.org.

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