A couple of weeks ago, our department celebrated “Take Your Kids to Work Day.” Leadership planned a number of activities for the kids to learn all about the Department of Radiation Oncology and how we all work together, in very different roles, to take care of patients. This year, Finn the therapy dog was included!
Finn met with three groups of energetic girls and boys. Once they got over the initial surprise of seeing a dog in the hospital, they all rushed up to him to pet, hug and kiss him. Some of them even got down on all fours and walked around the room with Finn, pretending to be dogs, barking and panting the whole time!
The kids expressed great interest in how Finn helps patients in the waiting room. One said, “I know I would like to have a dog at my doctor’s office, especially if I have to get shots!” Their ability to understand the impact of Finn’s visits and the way he relieves stress and worry was remarkable.
Finn also provided them with an opportunity for recreation and “letting their hair down.” In the cancer care world, we sometimes lose sight of our patients’ needs to let go, kick back, relax, laugh and feel joy. Just as he did with the kids visiting for Take your Kids to Work Day, Finn provides these opportunities to patients and their families in the waiting room. He also provides them to the staff (many of them these kid’s parents!) with an opportunity for self care from their furry friend.
I would be remiss not talking about my own “pawrental” pride in Finn. Taking Finn to work with me has been such a rewarding, amazing experience for both of us. I am often moved to tears as I watch Finn offer his paw or snuggle up with a patient in need. He seems to have a keen awareness of folks who need an extra layer of love and support. He breaks down barriers and encourages communication, laughter and love. He facilitates patients telling their stories about their own pets and their experiences with animals. He loves everyone, regardless of their appearance (no hair, don’t care!), behaviors and ability to communicate. One patient who spoke French even taught Finn basic commands—in French, while waiting for his treatment!
So, here’s to the parents and the kids—even the fur kids! May we continue to bring them to work, answer their questions about what we do all day and surprise them with puppy love when they least expect it.
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®).
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