Furry Friend Comforts Kids

July 3, 2019

Visits to the Cardinals Kids Cancer Center are a little more bearable with a new addition to the practice. Odin, a 2-year-old English lab, is the first facility dog in the St. Louis area to be placed in an outpatient clinic setting. He’s a new constant for patients and family members providing support, comfort and a welcome distraction during appointments at the office.

Odin gives patients like 10-year-old Emma Pullam something to look forward to when she comes for treatment. Pullam, as well as other patients, can cuddle with Odin, brush him and even help walk him around the center. She said it makes her happy to see Odin and hang out with him, “He sits with me during treatments and helps me stay calm.”

Owned by Duo, an organization that trains facility and service dogs, Odin has been training since he was just a pup. He was fostered by Duo's puppy raisers during his first two years of life, then had three to four months of intensive training at Duo and 40 additional hours of training with his handlers – Laura Hanks, social worker and education specialist, and Jamie Krause, clinical nursing supervisor. He lives with Hanks, and when she’s unavailable he stays with Krause, to ensure he’s always available for patients.  

“When Odin is at home, he is lively and energetic,” Hanks, who has two other dogs and two kids, stated, “But once he’s wearing his service vest, he knows he’s at work and remains laid-back, gentle and does what the patients want.”

“I know that the treatments can be difficult for patients, and I welcome any opportunity for them to feel better,” said Dr. Bob Bergamini, medical director of pediatric complex care. “Odin provides that opportunity for patients.”

Odin’s presence with Mercy was made possible through a gift from the St. Louis Italian Open.

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