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Meet Squid, Children's Hospital's Facility Dog

We have a four-legged staff member!

At Children’s Hospital, we don’t just focus on a child’s illness - we focus on the whole child. And sometimes, a visit from a furry, four-legged friend is just what our patients need to boost to their healing and brighten their stay.

Meet Squid

The Facility Dog program is made possible by Mars Petcare.

More about Squid

Meet Squid, our hospital’s first full-time facility dog. He joined the hospital as an employee and member of the Patient- and Family-Centered Care team in February 2020. He has his own photo identification badge, is a graduate of Canine Companions for Independence, and has trained specifically to bring joy and comfort to our patients, families and staff.

Squid works alongside his handler, Leslie Grissim, MA, CCLS, Facility Dog Coordinator. Facility dogs are expertly trained to help children cope with the most challenging of medical situations, procedures and diagnoses. They can help patients overcome the stress they may experience during a stay at the hospital.

Squid can perform over 40 different commands to help motivate our patients to meet specific treatment goals and make the clinical environment feel more like home. He also supports our staff on a weekly basis. Squid is just the beginning of a growing and thriving Facility Dog Program that includes a full-time canine clinician.

Medical Benefits of Facility Dogs

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that animal-assisted therapy and intervention can help patients cope with and heal from health issues. Research shows that human-canine interactions with a gentle, friendly, trained animal have benefits including stabilizing blood pressure, diminishing pain, reducing anxiety and even encouraging communication.

Strategically matched with a clinically trained staff member, Squid provides a calm presence in what can sometimes be a stressful experience for patients and their families.

Common Questions about the Facility Dog Program

What training do facility dogs receive?

Squid began his training when he was just a few weeks old. He received two years of extensive and specialized training from Canine Companions for Independence. Since 1975 this organization has bred, raised and expertly trained dogs to assist people with disabilities or in hospital settings.

Facility dogs learn 40 commands that allow them to interact with and calm patients and staff effectively. Their specialized training and calm disposition make them perfect companions for children and teens. They can perform many tasks and skills that can be geared to assist in reaching treatment goals. For example, Squid can close doors and drawers, and even push a beach ball back for a game of catch and toss. He can also retrieve items.

Facility dogs also receive special certification through a standardized practical test, and they periodically return for follow-up assessments. The facility dog’s handler also completes a two-week, full-time training course to become acquainted with the dog and ensure dog and handler are a good fit with each other.

How long has the facility dog been working?

Squid begain working at Children’s Hospital in February 2020. Our program began upon his arrival.  

What breed is the facility dog?

Squid is a male Labrador Retriever.

Where did he get his name?

Canine Companions for Independence names each litter of service dog puppies according to a theme. In Squid’s case, his litter was given the letter “S.” Facility dogs’ names are short, easy to pronounce, and don’t rhyme with or sound like one of their regular commands. This helps the dogs and their handlers work together more easily.

Will more facility dogs be added to the program?

Yes, we hope to grow the program and introduce you to other canine clinicians and handlers.

How can I meet a facility dog?

Our facility dog is designated to work in the inpatient areas. At this time, he is the only facility dog for Children's Hospital. He spends most of his day helping patients in intensive medical situations. A medical provider must make a request for a facility dog to visit, and then work with our Facility Dog Coordinator to schedule the visit according to the patient’s level of need and availability. While we do our best to accommodate all medical requests, we cannot guarantee a visit.

For patients wanting to see Squid, he also visits Seacrest Studios and appears regularly on Children’s Hospital’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

How is the Facility Dog Program different from the Volunteer Pet Partner Program?

While both programs make a world of difference for children and their families in our hospital, their goals are different. Squid, in the Facility Dog Program, is an expertly trained service dog who works alongside clinical staff. He helps patients during certain procedures, encourage them to move when they’re feeling sick or in pain, and comforts those who have experienced trauma.

To request a facility dog visit, the patient’s provider must have a treatment goal in mind. The provider must then request a visit from the Facility Dog Coordinator, who evaluates the request and works to accommodate it according to medical need and availability. 

Pet Partner teams are volunteers whose pets have been evaluated and certified by an accredited animal therapy organization. These beloved four-legged volunteers work with their humans to bring cheer and joy to patients in our hospital through visits in common areas and patient rooms. Many of these friendly pups and their owners visit our hospital several times per week.

Pet Partners provide spontaneous visits to make the hospital feel more comfortable for patients who are away from their own pets or who could benefit from a friendly presence. Pet Partners cannot be present during a patient’s medical exams or procedures.

Where does the facility dog live?

Squid lives with his handler. He does not wear his special vest when he is not working. He goes home to rest, relax and play just like other dogs.

How can I help?

Our goal is to grow the facility dog program and add more dogs to our pack. Children’s Hospital’s facility dog program is supported by Better Cities for Pets, a Mars Petcare program. Donations to our program will help us grow.