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

March 23, 2022 Swedish Health Team


In this article:

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

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

  • The dogs play games with patients and inspire physical activity and engagement. 

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. Since walking was 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 their first meeting, Aulani sparked something in the young patient, and suddenly the patient was 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 during treatment and in recovery.

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 role-playing 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 depending 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. Aulani and Jared are one of the many interventions from the Spiritual Care team that address our patients’ social, emotional and spiritual needs.  

Find a doctor

If you have questions about your health, contact Primary Care at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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