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Lemon and Dorian: Dynamic Dog Duo Comforts Patients and Families

Children's Health
Author name: Lee Health

Dorian and Lemon graphic and photo

Dorian, the boy dog, enjoys napping, chasing squirrels, and hearing his hedgehog toy squeak when plays with it. Lemon, the girl dog, likes getting belly rubs, playing catch, and chewing on her stuffed lamb chop toy.

But these canine companions seem most happy when they’re comforting their patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Dorian and Lemon are expertly trained to help children cope with challenging medical situations and overcome the stress they may experience during their hospital stay,

Called facility dogs, the dynamic duo are part of the Child Life team and work at the hospital full-time (Monday through Friday). Each dog works as a team with their handlers, two Certified Child Life Specialists, to provide support and comfort, enhance a patient and family’s coping with healthcare experiences.

Their overall goal is to improve the patient experience at the hospital, according to Taylor Hinton, a Certified Child Life Specialist and facility dog handler. She’s also Lemon’s primary handler in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology inpatient unit and outpatient clinic.

“Facility dogs like Dorian and Lemon are an important part of a patient’s treatment plan and can assist in meeting clinical goals, through creative interventions, determined by the healthcare team,” Taylor says. She adds that each animal received at least two years of extensive training to prepare them to specialize in goal-directed interventions.  

“For example, Lemon provides procedural support by allowing a patient to focus on her rather than on their IV placement or blood draws, which can make a patient anxious or fearful,” Taylor explains. “She can be used to motivate patients to ambulate (walk) after a surgical or invasive procedure, as well. Most important, she brings a sense of normalcy to patients on the inpatient unit when they are basically living here while receiving treatment for their oncology diagnosis.”

Studies show that interactions with facility dogs can raise the spirits of hospitalized children and, most important, improve their quality of life during their time in the hospital. In addition to helping patients and their family, facility dogs like Dorian and Lemon lift the spirits of medical staff, too.

(Learn how our Child Life Specialists support healing)

Meet the dogs

Dorian, a golden doodle mix, works on the Pediatric Medical/Surgery and Pediatric Intensive Care units with his primary and secondary handlers. He also responds to consults throughout Golisano Children’s Hospital including on the Hematology/Oncology Unit, Pediatric Sedation Center and Pre-op.

Lemon, a golden retriever and a relative newcomer to the children’s hospital, works alongside her handlers to help with normalizing the hospital environment for patients and families.

Dorian and Lemon were born, raised, and educated by Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating people and dogs to provide comfort patients and staff in hospital settings.

According to Jennifer Arnold, who founded Canine Assistants in 1991, the organization uses a Bond-Based Approach when developing its dogs for service.

“We believe that dogs who are asked to improve the lives of people in need deserve themselves to lead happy lives. So, rather than focusing only on teaching our dogs to perform tasks on command, we educate people and dogs so they may enrich the lives of one another,” Jennifer explains. “The Bond-Based Approach is rooted in the belief that mutually beneficial relationships are those in which trust, respect, and confidence combine to form deep, loving, meaningful, and lasting connections.”

Facility dogs like Dorian and Lemon help with:

  • Teaching patients about upcoming tests and procedures
  • Encourage patients to ambulate after surgery and during hospitalization
  • Ease stress and anxiety of patients and families through physical contact and soft touch
  • Non-pharmacological support for pain management
  • Support for patient and family at end-of-life and bereavement

If you feel that your child would benefit from Dorian or Lemon’s support during their healthcare experience, please contact the Child Life Specialist on your unit.

Keep up to date on our facility dogs by following them on instagram at: @gchswfl_facilitydogs