Dogs On Duty: Therapy Dog Provides Comfort To Kids Getting Their COVID-19 Vaccination Shots

A child boy's hand is shaking the paw of a Golden Retriever dog the background is a blurred deck.

(Stock Picture Credit: BanksPhotos/Getty Images)

Ollie, a six-year-old Goldendoodle, brings joy and comfort to the young patients of Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Now, she’s helping youngsters get through their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Prior to the pandemic, Ollie provided animal therapy to children fighting cancer and other potentially deadly conditions.

However, with the recent inclusion of children aged five to eleven for COVID-19 vaccination, Ollie has had a bit of a new role, but with the same result. She helps kids understandably scared of the needle!

Ollie’s Special Job Prior To COVID-19

Ollie is one of 15 therapy dogs in the PetSmart Paws for Hope Canine Therapy Program, reports Daniel Trotta from Reuters.

This program serves children fighting cancer or other such harrowing diseases — kids who are in extra need of the special brand of joy and comfort canines provide.

Parents of these children often need comfort too, says Kristin Gist, Ollie’s mom, canine therapy volunteer, and former hospital program director.

“Sometimes a parent will say, ‘He’s asleep from his surgery, but can I pet the dog?'” Gist said. “They can really cuddle with the dog and feel better, too.”

Unfortunately, when the pandemic struck, these needed canine visits had to be put on hiatus.

“There was nothing. It was silent. The kids were bored,” Carlos Delgado, a hospital spokesperson, told Trotta. “So thank God we were able to start bringing the program back. Even a three-minute visit with a canine makes a difference for the day.”

Ollie’s New Role With COVID-19 Vaccination

Young Avery Smith, nine years old, was in tears and full of anxiety over receiving the vaccine. That’s when Ollie was brought in and took her place by the child’s feet.

“It helped me because I never had a COVID vaccine before, and I didn’t know what it felt like,” young Avery explained. “But when I saw the dog it helped me calm down.”

Smith is just one example of the undoubtedly hundreds of children Ollie has comforted. Who knows what kind of long-term domino effect such an act of canine kindness has? But we know it isn’t anything short of wonderful.

Can your dog provide comfort to kids or other people in need? DogTime has a full guide to helping your dog become a certified therapy animal here!

Do you think therapy dogs like Ollie can provide comfort to kids getting their shots? Do you think your dog would make a good therapy animal? Let us know in the comments below.