Kim is a dedicated staff member of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia radiation oncology team. Kim is the first face the families coming for treatment see. They trust her implicitly. That is why Kim’s endorsement of Finn, the therapy dog, is so important. Kim is a self-proclaimed dog person, but can’t have a dog of her own at this time. Finn also fills a doggie love gap for her.
Kim had worked with cancer patients before, but had never encountered a therapy dog. Like a protective parent, Kim wanted to be sure that Finn was going to be there for her patients on a consistent basis and that they were safe and comfortable around him. It wasn’t that she was skeptical of his abilities to be a member of the treatment team, she wanted to see him in action and experience pet therapy herself. In time, she grew to love Finn and loved watching him interact with the kids, their siblings and their parents. She is an important referral source for the pet therapy program.
The recreation therapy the kids receive by interacting with the therapy dog is priceless. They get to be kids…not sick kids. They laugh and squeal with delight when the dog catches a treat or wags his tail in response to their petting. Watching these kids be so happy, in a space where they are often times suffering, scared and anxious is a great benefit for Kim and the rest of the pediatric staff. “I wish Finn could be in the playroom with us! I especially love when he wears his costumes,” says Kim, now a huge cheerleader for the pet therapy program.
Kim recognizes that coming for daily treatment, often far from home, forces families to make choices that often include having to leave their beloved family pets at home. Finn also bridges that gap and gives the kids and their families something to look forward to. “He gives them a sense of being at home, of a life without cancer, just with a little nudge and wag of his tail.” Kim is a blessing to her patients, their families and to Finn through her affirmation of him and the benefits of pet therapy for kids coping with cancer.
For more information or questions about animal assisted therapy and cancer patients, contact Christina Bach, [email protected]
Healing Paws is a joint project between OncoLink and the Department of Radiation Oncology, Penn Medicine.
Finn, the therapy dog, is a registered therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International (TDI®).
Photos by William Levin, MD, Department of Radiation Oncology, Penn Medicine and Christina Bach, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C
Consents for disclosure of personal information/photography on file