Columbus Childrens Hospital Staffs Full-Time Medical Dog In New Animal Assisted Therapy Program

December 27, 2006

Studies have shown that owning a dog can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. At Columbus Childrens Hospital, dogs are doing even more by assisting in rehabilitation therapy. Columbus Childrens is one of just a handful of hospitals throughout the nation to staff a full-time Facility Dog or M.D. (medical dog).

In November 2006, 2-year old Ansley, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, joined the staff at Columbus Childrens Hospital Rehabilitation Unit. He is part of a new program called Animal Assisted Therapy. Animal assisted therapy is different from pet therapy, in which the dog simply provides comfort and companionship. Ansley does this, but goes much further, assisting rehabilitation patients with mobility, speech and cognitive thinking exercises.

Teenagers arent just young adults, Karen Principe, program manager for Childrens Rehabilitation Unit, said. In many ways, they are still children, especially when they struggle with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.

For example, Ansley plays fetch with patients, helping them build strength in both their arms and their legs. He also assists patients with brain injuries, helping them grasp the sequence of events by responding to commands sit, roll over and stand. As a result, Ansley helps children respond better to treatment and often helps reduce the need for medication.

Ellen Kaitz, MD, Physical Medicine at Columbus Childrens Hospital, has had Travis, her own Service Dog, for the last five years. She has seen first-hand the remarkable connection kids have made with him.

Ive seen children who are very early emerging out of a coma reach out and pet a dog, whereas they might not have responded to requests that I had given them, Kaitz said.

At Childrens, Ansley is paired with Jennifer Lundine, a speech pathologist with the Rehabilitation Unit. In Animal Assisted Therapy, facility dogs work in combination with a trained professional a speech pathologist, physical therapist or occupational therapist. Lundine works with Ansley in preparation, training and program development.

It takes at least six months to train therapy dogs. By the time they earn their M.D. status, they know at least 40 different commands. Ansley was provided by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). Typically, it costs roughly $12,000 to train one dog, though all dogs from CCI are provided free of charge to the recipient.

Pam Barber / Mary Ellen Fiorino
Columbus Children's Hospital Marketing and Public Relations
(614) 722-4595

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2018-19 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric health care systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.4 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at