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October 18, 2011
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Hospital issues therapy dog trading cards

Cards featuring Sebastian, a poodle; Coletrain, a shih-tzu mix; and Daphne, a golden retriever; may soon take their place in shoeboxes of trading card collectors, but you have to be a patient to get one.

Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital is issuing trading cards of therapy dogs that regularly visit the young patients.

The front of each card features the dog’s photo; the back of the card includes interesting tidbits, such as the dog’s hometown and favorite activity. For example, Coletrain hails from Skaneateles and likes to eat canned pumpkin.

Sue Karl, a certified child life specialist at Upstate Golisano, is the human behind the idea of featuring the four-legged friends on their own calling card.

The cards feature “We give the cards to the kids in anticipation of the dog’s visit,” Karl said. “The cards take the uncertainty out of the visit, and uncertainty is a big fear in a hospital for kids. So the cards are a great way to start the relationship between the child and dog.”

And the relationship is, well, some would say “puppy love.”

“It’s amazing how a sweet, friendly dog can motivate a child and brighten his or her day,” Karl said. “It’s almost instantaneous, the big smile that comes across a child’s face when Daphne, Coletrain or Sebastian come to visit.”

Karl recalls how one child who was downcast and frowning for most of their stay, lit up with the brightest smile when the dog walked in their room. “This child had not smiled in days and in walked one of our dogs. Wow, this child was so upbeat, there was a measurable change in the child’s demeanor from this one special visit.”

When the dogs come to the hospital they usually see about 15 children with each visit lasting about 10 minutes. For some, Karl says, the visits are too short. “Many of the kids—and parents, too—don’t want the dogs to leave.”

But now, thanks to the therapy dog trading cards, patients at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital will have an official reminder of the furry friend who helped them get well.

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