Children's Hospital patient and facility dog reconnect through Zoom

Posted at 11:37 PM, Sep 20, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A dog, doing Zoom calls? It sounds like a funny idea, but for others, it can help them during some tough times.

Children's Hospital in Omaha has a facility dog to help make patients feel a little more comfortable. But once COVID-19 took away those patient visits the staff found a creative way around that.

"When she was four years old last July of 2019, she was diagnosed with leukemia," said Alicia Huse, talking about her 5-year-old daughter, Emry.

Alicia says she is still receiving treatment at Children's and during those visits, one of her friends makes things a little better.

"When she was diagnosed, we had just previously gotten a new puppy a couple months prior, and she really wanted the puppy here at the hospital when we were staying, and during treatment, so it was nice to have Sansa here for us," said Huse.

The other part of this duo is Sansa, a three-year-old Golden Doodle and facility dog at Children's. COVID-19 prevented Sansa from meeting with patients, but like many of us during the pandemic, she's now acquainted with Zoom.

"Knowing that Sansa was going to be here and that we were going to have our little Zoom session afterward, it really helped get her through the tough stuff," said Huse.

Even though those two can't meet in person, their bond is as strong as ever.

"When I was going to throw the ball, I say throw it with me, so she kind of felt she was still a part of the process. I would ask her where does Sansa needs a scratch that sort of thing, so I kind of give them the control over that, and I'm kind of playing for them," said Debbie Snyder, Sansa's Handler at Children's.

Synder also uses the time to ask questions to see how kids are coping with everything making this Child Life program so important.

"Dogs just seem to bring a calming environment. Facility animals bring a calming to the environment, so we really, with the research, felt like this is something we wanted to do for our patients here to make the environment less scary," said Terry Patterson, Director of Family Resources at Children's.

Patterson says the program provides normalcy for kids at a time when their life is anything but.

"The world is changing, but we still need to provide some consistency for the children, and so what Child Life does is try and provide that familiarity," said Patterson.

That familiarity is why Alicia is grateful her daughter and Sansa have connected once again.

"Watching your child go through the treatment is pretty stressful, so anytime we can get a little bit of a smile on our face or get her to calm down with the dogs, I think it definitely helps eliminate a little bit of the stress," said Huse.

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