Huntsville Hospital Foundation expands “Canines For Coping” facility dog program to Madison Hospital
MADISON – Huntsville Hospital Foundation (HHF) and the Huntsville Hospital Health System have seen improved patient outcomes and overwhelmingly positive feedback since launching the Canines for Coping facility dog program in 2019. Now, thanks to generous community donors, the program is expanding to serve patients, families and caregivers at Madison Hospital.
A new dog has been secured through Service Dogs Alabama, and is expected to arrive in spring 2023. Because of its extensive training at the service dog institution, the dog will be able to deliver services based on medical goals, be present during procedures and assist with bereavement. Results include increased healing, decreased anxiety, improved mood and reduced blood pressure.
“We have tracked incredibly positive outcomes since Canines for Coping started serving patients, and we are so excited to start offering this incredible program for the city of Madison,” said Stefani Williams, Canines for Coping coordinator for Huntsville Hospital. “The new dog will be a full-time employee, working with its handler to meet the needs of both pediatric and adult patients. We especially anticipate this dog being a great service for youth who are seeking care for mental health needs and our adult patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.”
The donor-funded Canines for Coping program currently consists of three professionally trained facility dogs at Huntsville Hospital and Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children – Asteroid, Orbit and Shaggy.
“Adding a facility dog to the Madison Hospital team is a huge benefit for everyone who walks through our hospital doors,” said Mary Lynne Wright, president of Madison Hospital. “This dog will not only bring joy and comfort to our patients, but also to our health care heroes. I am extremely thankful to the Foundation and the generous donors who are funding this program for our hospital and community.”
The purchase of Madison Hospital’s new dog is made possible by the generosity of one Madison couple through a memorial gift to HHF. Sheryl and Pat Thomason lost their son unexpectedly earlier this year. They chose this special project as a way to memorialize Patrick, who loved dogs. The Thomasons hope the comfort the dog provides will help many recover or deal with their sickness in a more positive way.
“After looking into many different charitable organizations, when the opportunity to provide the dog for the Madison Hospital and knowing Patrick’s love of dogs, this was an easy decision for us,” Pat said. “Just knowing how a facility dog can brighten the day and bring joy for everybody it comes into contact with is a very exciting opportunity. We know Patrick would love this and would support this 100 percent.”
Other ongoing expenses will rely on community donations to sustain the program. These will be covered in part by Madison Hospital employees through the Lifesaver Club employee giving program.
Other generous contributors are Window World of Huntsville, which signed on as the Founding Sponsor of the program launch campaign, and also the Madison City Council through an approved appropriation. Individuals can contribute to the program’s growth and needs by becoming a Pet Pal!
To learn more or donate, visit www.huntsvillehospitalfoundation.org/caninesforcoping. Companies interested in sponsoring the program launch campaign can contact HHF at (256) 265-8077.