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Dell Children's Austin launches medical dog program 'emBark!'

Junie, Reba and Savannah have joined the health care team at Dell Children's Medical Center.

AUSTIN, Texas — The health care team at Dell Children's Medical Center just got a little furrier!

On Friday, the hospital announced the launch of its medical dog program "emBark!," introducing Junie, Reba and Savannah to the team.

The pups are the hospital's first full-time medical dogs. The highly-trained animals will provide support and motivation for patients and will assist the child life team with support during certain medical procedures.

"There is an important distinction between a pet therapy program and the medical facility dog program," Dell Children's said in a press release. "Pet therapy provides recreation or social visits facilitated by volunteers, visiting 1-2 times a month around the whole hospital. Medical dog programs provide goal-oriented clinical interventions facilitated by full-time, credentialed, employee handlers, working 40 hours a week."

The hospital said the three dogs were carefully matched with Certified Child Life Specialist handlers by Canine Companions for Independence.

"Dell Children's and PetSmart Charities know that pets have the remarkable ability to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, improve our mood and bring us unconditional love," hospital leaders said. "That’s why, with the help of a $75,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, emBark! is aiming to improve quality of life and provide a healthy diversion from the usual hospital routine for children while receiving treatment."


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