When Sibley Heart Center Cardiology contact center manager Kim Cordum saw a story in 2011 about Casper, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s first full-time hospital therapy dog, and his incredible impact on a young patient, she thought he sounded a lot like her young Golden Retriever, Cooper. Always sweet and loving and never hyper, Cooper was already well trained at 18 months old. Kim decided to investigate having her dog certified as a therapy dog.
She took Cooper to Happy Tails Pet Therapy, where he was tested on skills like remaining calm when approached by strangers or strange dogs or hearing loud noises. The final test was to sit and stay in a big, empty warehouse while Kim left his sight for several minutes. He passed with flying colors and became one of the youngest dogs to complete the program. Kim began signing him up for “jobs.”
One of our first assignments was at Peachford Hospital, where we visited once a week and hung out with the kids and a team of dogs from Happy Tails,” Kim said. “The first time we went, it was so rewarding, and I thought maybe this dog was born to do this. He let the kids do anything they wanted, including walking him down the halls and brushing him. From then on, anytime I got out his vest and bag, we had to get in the car and go right away or he’d just follow me around until we did. He was anxious to get going!”
After a few weeks, Kim and Cooper got on a team to visit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, a highly coveted assignment. She says she left in tears many times after seeing the impact of the dogs on the kids. Cooper seems to know who needs him the most when he enters a room, and he will seek them out and nudge their hands. He loves everybody unconditionally.
“I hope it brings a little bit of normalcy and happiness in a time that isn’t normal to them,” Kim said. “We love seeing their smiles. It makes it all worthwhile to see how they happy they are to see the dogs, even when they’re in pain or having a bad day.”
For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.