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ORLANDO, Fla. — A four-legged team member has joined the team at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
Parks, a 2-year-old Labrador Retriever, is the hospital’s first facility dog.
Parks will help bring healing, comfort and fun to chronically and critically ill patients, their families and team members, the hospital said.
The received hospital Parks at no cost from Canine Companions, an organization that trains and provides facility dogs to health care, criminal justice and educational settings.
According to Orlando Health, facility dogs undergo a two-year extensive and specialized training, where they learn more than 40 commands that allow them to interact with and calm patients and staff appropriately.
The hospital said Kimberly Burbage has been a child life specialist at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer for 15 years and stepped into her new role as Parks’ handler earlier this year.
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“I have been interested in creating this program at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer for several years and am excited to be able to incorporate Parks into the hospital journey of our patients and families. Parks and I were matched together by Canine Companions and even though we’ve only been working together for a month, I can already see the impact he is making with our children and adolescents,” said Burbage. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Parks in bringing some great therapeutic benefit and normalcy to the patients here at the hospital.”
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Parks will provide emotional support from Monday to Friday to patients and families who may be struggling with their illness or diagnosis.
Orlando Health said the cost of training and support for a facility dog like Parks is about $50,000, but Canine Companions depends on the support of donors and volunteers to help provide the service free of charge.
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