Who says you need a lab coat to offer good medicine? Sometimes you just need a lab – Labrador retriever, that is. Or a poodle, a Bernese mountain dog, a Golden Retriever, or any of the various breeds that make up the therapy dogs program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Throughout the years, these special dogs have visited with patients in several of the hospital’s outpatient clinics, as well as on the inpatient floors. In addition, St. Louis Children's Hospital will soon be part of a unique pet therapy program that allows patients to visit with their own pets while they are in the hospital.

Pet therapy is one component of St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Healing Arts program, which also includes art therapy, music therapy, humor therapy (the Clown Docs) and horticulture therapy. The PetSmart Paws for Hope program and its TOUCH Dog volunteers provide a familiar distraction in an otherwise unfamiliar environment. Some would argue this type of alternative therapy speeds a child’s recovery emotionally, mentally and physically.

St. Louis Children's Hospital has partnered Support Dogs, Inc. to offer the TOUCH Dogs program since 1995. And in October 2014, the hospital teamed up with PetSmart to help fund the hospital’s pet therapy program, now called PetSmart Paws for Hope, with a goal to double the number of TOUCH Dogs providing therapy to young patients.