Health + Behavior

Canine cupids bring Valentine cheer to hospitalized patients

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Ella and a patient
Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

Cupid for the day, Ella puts a comforting paw on a smiling patient. Teams of volunteer dogs and their owners brought Valentine's Day greetings and cards to hospitalized children and adults.

A team of pettable cupids made a special delivery to hospitalized patients at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, on Valentine’s Day, bearing a love-and-kisses message that's sure to stay with the children and adults for a long time. 

Adorable dogs, dressed up in their Valentine’s Day finest, dutifully delivered handmade Valentine cards throughout the morning today to patients of all ages in their hospital rooms and pediatric playrooms. The canine cupids and their volunteer owners are members of UCLA's People–Animal Connection, an animal-assisted therapy program.

Ella and her owner pay a Valentine's Day visit to a patient

Several dozen volunteer dogs of all shapes and sizes brought heartfelt good wishes, trotting down the hallways of the maternity ward and other areas of the hospitals.

Pierre, a French bulldog, made the kids giggle and smile, as he made the rounds with his pals Ernie, a Shih-Tzu; Madison, a Goldendoodle; and Roxy, an English Labrador retriever. They stopped to visit 3-year-old Sophia Pedreira and others who were delighted by their four-legged visitors.

“When we get to deliver Valentine’s and we get to see the kids’ faces, it means everything to us,” said Matt Elias, a volunteer dog owner.

Young patients took part in the Valentine's Day celebration, thanks to the hospital's Chase Child Life Program, which hosted the event. The handmade Valentine's Day cards were created by members of Dollies Making a Difference. They bring dolls as well as other gifts to the hospital during the holidays. 

 The UCLA Health People-Animal Connection is one of the most comprehensive programs of its kind in the nation. PAC volunteer teams offer companionship and warmth to more than 1,000 critically ill children and adults per month. Since its inception in 1994, PAC teams have recorded more than 120,000 in-patients visits, as well as hundreds of thousands visits to families and guests at UCLA medical centers and community events.

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