HUNTSVILLE – As the city moves into a Golden Age of caregiving, the latest addition to the Huntsville Hospital System is nothing less than a cover model of sorts.
Blond hair, quiet, lovable, friend to girls and boys.
His name is Paxton, the system’s third golden retriever to the group of five facility/therapy dogs at the Hospital for Women & Children.
Paxton, a California native just over two years old and a graduate of Guide Dogs of America, and his handler Megan Banks made their premiere in front of the media Wednesday morning. He, she and young patient Madelynn were a hit.
“He’s a people pleaser,” Banks said. “He wants to do good and perform well for others, so we’re so eager to work with the patients in the community that we serve.”
Retrievers and Labradors, in general, lend themselves to having a good demeanor to work with kids. Banks, who after the company matched Paxton to his future location, went to the West Coast to finish handler commands.
She said people sometimes tell her the dogs look sad while on the clock.
“When his vest is on, he knows he’s working,” Banks said. “When that vest comes off, he plays with toys, he loves chewing on bones. He’s just a normal dog. You can tell when his vest is on, he goes into work mode.
“And he loves to work. It’s been a week that we’ve been at the hospital, but he gets so excited to come to work. We’ve been working on (him) not running up the steps as we walk in the door, because we don’t want him pulling me. But he loves coming in, seeing the staff and the other golden retrievers we have and the Labradors that we have. So, he definitely loves it here already.”
The dogs accept the stress patients and parents are feeling at the hospital. But when work is over, the animals put their vest on a hanger and become ordinary dogs to relieve any stress they’ve absorbed while on the job.
Program Director and Child Life Specialist Stefani Williams houses the hospital’s original facility dog, a female named Asteroid. Sarah Savage-Jones, president of Huntsville Hospital Foundation, joined the gathering welcoming Paxton to the team.
Paxton’s addition was made possible from a donation from Kathi and Norm Tews.
“We are deeply appreciative of the Tews for believing in the healing and positive power of dogs in our hospitals,” Savage-Jones said. ‘We continually hear incredible stories of connection and improved patient outcomes. This program is powered by philanthropy and would not be possible without our community.”