Let me take a moment to introduce myself. I am an active volunteer at CHOC Children’s, both at the main campus in Orange and at the CHOC Children’s Corona Health Center. And even though I dress up in a tutu, never leave the house without one of my many sets of Minnie Mouse ears and wear incredibly sparkly nail polish, I take my job very seriously.
My name is Savvy, I am 7 years old and I am a proud pet therapy dog.
I am a Hungarian Vizsla, a breed that scores high on the traits of friendliness, trainability and energy. And believe me, my high energy level comes in handy: when I volunteer at CHOC’s main campus, I visit several different outpatient settings in a day. These include the outpatient infusion center, pre-op and post-op units, rehabilitation department and all of the first floor general clinics.
I love the young patients and I have to admit, they love me too. I do all sorts of tricks—crowd favorites include showing off my yoga “downward dog” position, and rolling over and over on the ground while letting out some hilarious grunts.
And my trading cards are in big demand. Each of the CHOC therapy dogs, and they number more than 40, has a trading card featuring a picture and pertinent information. My trading card is a classic, with a photo of me all dressed up shaking hands with Minnie Mouse herself.
My handler/mom, Kelly Rang, says I am a ham for attention, and I think I enjoy it more than the kids. But I know that the patients, and staff, appreciate my antics. In fact, the Pet Therapy Program, which is a component of the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department at CHOC Children’s, does a lot of good.
Pet therapy dogs help minimize the stress and anxiety of hospitalization and illness, provide warmth, comfort and the sense of familiarity, offer play and “normal life” experiences, provide a distraction from pain and medical treatments, and of course, bring smiles.
Before I could volunteer, Kelly spent hours and hours training me. I was so good that I passed the rigorous requirements of Pet Partners, a national organization that works with CHOC’s pet therapy program. Now I get to see my CHOC friends once a week, alternating weeks between Corona and the main campus.
I am also grateful for the $5 million donation from the Cherese Mari Laulhere Foundation to the Child Life Department. I know Cherese loved animals just like me, and the generous donation from her Foundation allows for the expansion of the Child Life Department.
Well, gotta run. Kelly and I need to get ready for our upcoming visit to CHOC. Some great kids and staff members are waiting to say hello.