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It has been almost two months since children between the ages of 5 and 11 got COVID disease.
Since the process can be a bit overwhelming, especially for the little ones, a local hospital recruited “man’s best friend” – to reassure the children at the Rady Children’s Hospital vaccination center.
Islay and Bella worked in the hospital to comfort children who are getting their injections.
Every child who walks into the room to be vaccinated has a different experience.
Some, like Sorushiie Arora, are cool, calm, and collected, while others, like Emma Smith, are a little scared at first.
“… I didn’t want to see it because I didn’t want it to bleed,” Emma told NBC 7.
However, Rady Children’s Hospital has a secret weapon – there are actually 15 of them – that are cute, cozy, comforting, and part of a canine therapy program. Islay and Bella’s owners volunteer to escort her around the room, paying special attention to children who are afraid of needles.
“They just focus on the dog,” said volunteer Jennifer Shumaker, “so most of the time they don’t even notice the shot is taking place.”
The colleague Beth Milton agreed.
“And so it can be enough to distract her for just a minute,” said Milton.
The dogs can relieve stress while providing comfort and a sense of familiarity.
“I have a dog at home named Casey and Bella looked a lot like her so it kind of reminded me of my home, which made me feel relaxed,” said Micah Anderson.
About 15 dogs rotate through the vaccination clinic, each with their own trading card that is given to the children so that they can go home and remember the experience as positive.
Health experts said parents can help their children prepare for the injection by talking about it weeks before their appointment. You will be asked to be honest and explain that the shot can pinch or stab, but that the pain doesn’t last long. Children are encouraged to take deep breaths, and parents should bring a comfort item such as a blanket, stuffed animal, or tray to distract the children.
Hospital officials said the dogs would stay in Rady as long as they were needed.