Dana K. Morgan, the performance coordinator for Children’s Creative and Therapeutic Arts Services, explains the Children’s National Dog Therapy Program and tells the story of one of these special “canine volunteers”.
Our animal visitation program is a collaborative effort between Creative and Therapeutic Arts Services, Family Services, and Volunteer Services.
Banshee is a 15-year-old Miniature Pinscher. She was named after the Irish spirits that wail in the night. She has been training and performing in freestyle dog dancing for many years. Once very shy in new surroundings, Banshee has blossomed into a crowd pleaser for patients at Children’s National, local nursing homes, and parades that draw thousands of onlookers. Banshee has become well-known for her high hoop-jumping, skateboarding, and other special tricks. She especially loves visiting and performing for the patients and staff at Children’s National. The kids warm up to her immediately and actively participate in the demos by holding the hoops, having her jump through their arms, or just plain snuggling.
Banshee has her Canine Good Citizen Certificate and loves marching and performing in the Greenbelt Dog Drill Team. She is a little dog with a very big heart.
Research has shown that therapy animals enhance the quality of life, promote a feeling of home for patients, and contribute to the psychosocial health of those staying in the hospital. Our animal visitation program offers companionship and emotional support for our patients. It is one of our most popular programs, going on its eleventh year. Canine volunteers provide a welcome break from the hospital routine and a chance for patients to interact with gentle, kid-friendly pets.
The dogs that routinely visit the hospital are well-groomed and expertly trained; plus they have an impressive list of obedience skills and tricks. We have dogs that skateboard and even dogs that dance.
Our animal visitation program started when Greenbelt Dog Training founders, Allie and Adele Lee, requested to have their pet dog visit their son who was a patient at Children’s. Continuing the program, Allie evaluates and selects friendly and gentle dogs that would be a perfect fit for visiting the children.
Animal visitations are held the first and third Friday of every month on all patient floors at 2:00 pm. Also, dog shows are held in the Main Atrium quarterly.