ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Going to the hospital can be an emotional and confusing time, especially for children. So that’s why Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital brought in a four-legged staff member named Brea to keep the kids smiling.
“You know I knew that she would be helpful, I did not know how helpful and how impactful she would be on the hospital staff, the hospital moral, patient experience,” said child life specialist for the hospital Leah Frohnerath.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of Brea being the official facility dog at the hospital, where she brightens patients’ days during their stay.
Frohnerath feels like she’s accompanying a celebrity when walking around the hospital campus with the 3-year-old Labrador Retriever.
“Honestly many of the staff members tell me secretly that she’s their favorite co-worker,” said Frohnerath.
Brea was trained by Canine Companions to understand 40 commands, each one aimed at helping children manage the challenges that come with being in the hospital.
“What we use her for is helping children adjust to the hospital experiences whether that’s a procedure, a radiological study, maybe an MRI, Brea can stay with them, keep them calm and comfortable,” said Frohnerath.
The smiles on the faces of the patients and their families after a kiss or high five from Brea are all Frohnerath needs to see to know their presence is appreciated.
“They see joy and hope and many of the children have come out of their shells and really brightened up every time we walk into the room,” said Frohnerath. “It’s quite often that we go home and we’ve gotten notes of accolades about how Brea has made a difference for a child.”
There is even talk about bringing in more dogs, like Brea, into the Johns Hopkins All Children’s family.
“We would love to do it we are always looking for more donors and funding to grow this program so that more children can benefit,” said Frohnerath.