Packward Paws

In March 2018, Dr. Rashmi Bhandari, PhD the Director of Pediatric Pain Psychological Services at the Pediatric Pain Clinic (PPMC) in Menlo Park, trained Sonya (5-year-old mini Australian labradoodle) as a therapy dog, who then joined the Packard Paw program and became the first dog to work in an outpatient pain clinic in the country. At the clinic, Sonya offers distraction, fun, and comfort to children and families who are struggling with chronic pain. Recently Sonya raised $1000 for the Packard Paw program at Stanford Children and the patients she serves had great praise for her contribution on the PPMC team.

Sonya allows the pain team to be more efficient as the child becomes more comfortable, and is able to share more openly about their pain history. Sonya also assists Dr. Bhandari in training the patient in relaxation exercises such as belly breathing by placing her paw or head on the patient's belly. In general, Sonya assists by helping lower the child's fear of being in a medical environment, lowering anxiety, increasing opportunities for distraction from chronic pain, and allowing children and families to be more comfortable to share openly so that treatment can be optimized. Sonya and Dr. Bhandari often spend non clinical time providing comfort to staff and faculty to prevent burn-out. Staff will usually come to her office and enjoy Sonya's company, or they will walk around the clinic saying hello when they are able.

Packard Paws was cofounded by physician assistant Alyssa Giacalone and certified child life specialist, Molly Pearson. Packard Paws is a program where highly trained and skilled dogs are being used to enhance the quality of education and services for patients and families at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital- Stanford. Our facility dogs are handled by trained LPCH employees to be utilized to encourage goal-oriented interventions with their patients and families. 

Packard Paws currently has three facility dogs. Echo, is a three year old, black Labrador retriever that accompanies physician assistants, Alyssa Giacalone and Giovanna Suarez, with the cardiovascular surgery team. Echo jump started this program in January 2018, he is very excited when he comes to work. He will see patients that are in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit and Cardiac Acute Care Unit, along with patients coming for visits at the Betty Irene Moore Children's Heart Center.

Packard Paw’s newest member, Donatella, aka Donnie, is a three year old yellow Labrador retriever who works in the outpatient surgery center with Molly Pearson, a certified child life specialist. Donatella was donated and received professional training from Canine Companions for Independence.  Her role is to help decrease patients and parents stress and anxiety around coming in for surgery. She also loves to lend a helping paw for patient’s to hold during IV placements.

Star Staff