Spreading Joy to Those in Need – The Role of Therapy Dogs in a Clinical Setting

Katherine Vandebelt
Global Head of Clinical Innovation

This year has been a tough one for many, so for our last podcast of 2020, we wanted to end on a positive note by shining a light on two organizations (and their furry friends) who are doing amazing things for those in need.

There’s a reason that you may have seen a dog roaming the halls of your local hospital. Research shows that animals can improve the mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of their human companions. Humans and animals have a powerful bond, one that dates back as far as 15,000 years ago. From this strong human-animal bond comes the concept of therapy animals, or in the case of this podcast, therapy dogs.

But what is a therapy dog, and how are they being used today?

For episode 11 of The Latest Dose, we wanted to focus on the incredible work therapy dog programs are doing for patients, healthcare staff, first responders, and others in the community. From helping children learn how to walk, to providing comfort to our firefighters putting out massive wildfires, therapy dogs are used in all kinds of stressful situations to support those who need it.

In this episode, we were lucky enough to speak with two amazing women – Kate Buhrmaster of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Billie Smith of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs – about their respective therapy dog programs, what it takes to become a volunteer, how dog therapy works, and what creative measures they’ve taken to continue to bring joy to people in these tough times.

Kate Buhrmaster of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with her dog Wrigley Billie Smith of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and her dog Haven


For the first part of the episode (starting at the 1:16 mark), Kate Buhrmaster, the senior program manager of the Amerman Family Foundation Dog Therapy Program at Children’s Hospital LA, talks about her program supporting pediatric patients and healthcare workers. In the second part of the episode (starting at the 25:29 mark), we get a broader look at therapy dog programs by speaking with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs’ executive director, Billie Smith, about her nationwide volunteer program.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer at Children’s Hospital LA, please click here. If you would like to become a volunteer for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs’ and find someplace local to you, please click here.

You can listen to the whole conversation by tuning into The Latest Dose. See you in the new year!


Don’t forget to check out our other episodes, and make sure to subscribe!

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