Today, the Joy in Childhood Foundation announced the launch of the “Dogs for Joy” program—a new, first of its scale initiative aimed at increasing the number of dogs who work full-time in children’s hospitals in order to bring joy to kids battling illness.

Being in the hospital, especially for an extended period of time, can be a frightening, vulnerable and lonely time for a child and their family. A furry hug, a comforting paw and the unconditional love of a four-legged friend can have remarkable effects on even the youngest of patients. In-residence dogs, also known as facility dogs, provide an alternative focus from pain, help lower stress and anxiety levels and elicit smiles from patients and families during some of the most stressful times. More so, in-residence dogs can keep a child calm during a medical intervention or still during a test, and according to many hospital staff, patients who interact with in-residence dogs often require less medication.

According to Dr. Jana Stockwell, MD, FCCM, FAP and Director, Critical Care Medicine at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, who serves as a handler for a golden-doodle named Tidings, “Our Children’s dogs are full-time employees with a meaningful job to do, and on a daily basis, Tidings helps children be more engaged, encourages them to get out of bed, and even inspires them to tell us about a pet at home that they’re missing. Our facility dogs never fail to lift the spirits of kids and adults alike.”

Dunkin' Dog

In launching “Dogs for Joy”, the Joy in Childhood Foundation has adopted its own in-residence dog, Cooper Dunkin’, who serves as the Foundation’s Chief Joy Officer and the “Dogs for Joy” program ambassador. In this dual role, Cooper will bring joy to kids through special appearances, including visits to children’s hospitals nationwide.

Cooper, a Black lab/Golden retriever mix with a splash of Goldendoodle, is a trained service dog hailing from Canine Assistants in Milton, GA. To see why Cooper is the perfect fit for the Chief Joy Officer role, check out his resume.

Through the Dogs for Joy program, Cooper and the Foundation are working to bring or expand in-residence dog programs to more children’s hospitals, giving more children in need access to this unique type of animal-assisted therapy program. You can see Cooper is already hard at work below! Interested hospitals can apply for a Joy Dogs grant and submit an application at until March 31.

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