Children’s Hospital works with community and school to fetch new facility dog to the Upstate

Stone Academy of Communication Arts hosted a unique gender reveal for its students and the community today (Nov. 14), unveiling the identity of the newest furry friend at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital–Upstate.

Cookie, a yellow Labrador retriever facility dog, was introduced with the fanfare of a pink silly string welcome to cheering fans during a pep rally held at the school. She joins Prisma Health–Upstate’s growing Canine F.E.T.C.H. (Friends Encouraging Therapeutic Coping and Healing) Unit that works with care providers and patients to make patient visits more comfortable.

Known to love belly rubs and peanut butter-filled Kongs, Cookie will use her special training to assist young patients in need of extra assistance in all areas of Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center (CHOC).

Her addition to the Prisma Health Children’s Hospital team was made possible by a partnership between community members, North Main Community Association and Stone Academy, a Greenville County Schools magnet program with students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Together, they raised more than $25,000.

“It is wonderful that the community, North Main Community Association and Stone Academy have partnered with us by raising funds to bring a trained facility dog to serve all areas of Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center. Sometimes it’s our four-legged friends that can provide the best medicine for a child during a difficult time,” said Dr. Robin LaCroix, medical director of Prisma Health Children’s Hospital–Upstate.

Stone Academy chose the Canine F.E.T.C.H. Unit as their 2019 philanthropic partner to provide support for their peers who may be sick or in need of special care. The school has previously raised money for Prisma Health Children’s Hospital–Upstate to foster a spirit of public service and generosity throughout the school and the community.

“Our entire school community was excited to meet the newest member of the Canine F.E.T.C.H. team,” said Stone Academy principal Brett DeLoach Vaughn. “With the support of parents and community members, our students see the benefits of their hard work. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Canine F.E.T.C.H. program and Prisma Health Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center.”

The original intent for the newest facility dog was for her to primarily help children on the autism spectrum and those with other developmental disabilities. Cookie’s skills, however, will have a much broader impact.

Cookie comes to F.E.T.C.H. from The Service Dog Institute, a vendor located in Simpsonville. While she was specifically trained to serve children on the autism spectrum, she will use those skills to support positive coping for all children in the health care environment, said Katelyn Leitner, the facility canine coordinator at Children’s Hospital and a certified child life specialist.

In an environment such as a doctor’s office, children with any diagnosis can experience anxiety to an extreme degree and may cause them to react negatively or in ways they can’t control. For example, children may lash out or refuse to speak to the provider or answer questions. These reactions may make routine doctor’s visits highly tense situations that can be difficult to navigate. Cookie will work to help calm and distract patients, allowing care to be delivered in a less stressful environment for both patient and parent.

Cookie will be working with patients at CHOC before the end of the month with her handler, Dr. Karen Ratliff-Schaub, Chief of Developmental Pediatrics and the Gardner Center for Developing Minds, to serve children during their visits.

Mitzi Privette, child life specialist at CHOC, will serve as an additional handler. She will also be using the dog to support children in most outpatient clinics with various coping needs and procedural support.

“We’re very excited to have Cookie working with us to help children during their visits to Developmental Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center. She’s going to be a fantastic addition to our team!” said Ratliff-Schaub.

Altogether, the Prisma Health F.E.T.C.H. Unit has seven dogs, with five designated for use in the children’s area and two in adult care.