Fourth four-legged employee to join Penn State Health’s facility dog ​​program


HERSHEY, Pa. — Young patients at two of Penn State Health’s busy outpatient clinics will benefit from canine companionship through an expansion of the health system’s facility’s dog program. A new facility dog ​​and a certified child life specialist who will serve as their handler will be based in the Orthopedic and Pediatric Neurophysiology specialty clinics at 30 Hope Drive on the campus of Milton S. Hershey Medical Center .

The facility’s newest dog will become the fourth in a pack whose other three animals are a constant presence at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. In October 2016, Kaia joined the Child Life team as the children’s hospital became the first in Pennsylvania to have a full-time dog on staff. Beckyanother golden retriever, joined the team in 2018, and Pilot, a black golden retriever, arrived last year to complete the trio which offers specific services to help children cope with major and minor hospital procedures. The team’s new canine partner will work with his handler to assist pediatric patients receiving outpatient orthopedic, physical medicine, rehabilitation and neurophysiology services.

The four-legged employees spend 40 hours at work each week with their main dog handlers, with time allocated for downtime, naps and walks. The dogs also live with their main handlers. All were raised and trained by canine assistants in Georgia, where they learned unique skills for working with children in a children’s hospital or pediatric ambulatory care center, such as how to navigate hallways by walking beside chairs. rollers and IV poles and resting gently next to a child. who has suffered an injury, such as an amputation.

The expansion of the facility’s dog program is made possible in part by an $86,000 grant from PetSmart Charities. The grant will provide partial support for the new Certified Child Life Specialist, pet shelter costs and supplies, and an on-site mobile dog groomer for the four dogs at the Penn State facility. Health.

“We are so grateful for the generous support from PetSmart Charities,” said Ashley Kane, Child Life program manager at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. “We are constantly looking for opportunities to expand into new areas where therapeutic interventions with our canine teams will benefit our young patients and their families and advance the goals of our care teams. This financial support from PetSmart Charities will allow us to expand our program and bring comfort and healing to more children as they receive the therapy and treatment they need.

Michelle Flynn, Certified Child Life Specialist, joined the Child Life Team in July 2021 and began working at 30 Hope Drive in January 2022. As the new dog handler of the establishment, Flynn establishes the child’s life presence in the outpatient practice in anticipation of the dog’s arrival in the fall. The fourth dog will be provided by the current Kelso Facility Dog Endowmentwhich was created by an anonymous donor in honor of their dog, a Belgian Malinois named Kelso.

“PetSmart Charities is thrilled to partner with Penn State Health Children’s Hospital’s Child Life Program to bring the healing powers of the human-animal bond to pediatric patients, families and outpatient staff,” said Kelly Balthazor, Chief community grants to PetSmart Charities. “These specially trained animals also bring comfort and joy to patients’ loved ones.”

Funding from PetSmart Charities will enhance the facility’s dog program, which was launched and is supported by philanthropic contributions, and increase the number of animal-assisted therapy interventions to serve an additional 1,500 pediatric patients annually.

For more information about the facility’s dog program at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, visit For more information about PetSmart Charities, visit

About Penn State Health

Penn State Health is a multi-hospital healthcare system serving patients and communities in 29 counties in central Pennsylvania. The system includes Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, and the Hershey-based Penn State Cancer Institute; Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center in Enola; Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center in Camp Hill; Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center in Reading; and more than 3,000 physicians and direct care providers in more than 90 unique medical practices. Additionally, the system jointly manages various healthcare providers, including Penn State Health Rehabilitation Hospital, Hershey Outpatient Surgery Center, Hershey Endoscopy Center, and Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute. In December 2017, Penn State Health partnered with Highmark Health to facilitate the creation of a value-based community care network in the region. Penn State Health shares an integrated strategic plan and operations with Penn State College of Medicine, the university’s medical school.

AboutGreater Penn State » Countryside

PetSmart Charities’ donation to support Penn State Health Children’s Hospital Dog Program will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a targeted campaign that aims to elevate Penn State’s standing as a public university leading in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st century public university: keeping the doors of higher education open to students who work hard, whatever regardless of their financial well-being; create transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence”, visit


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