TCH’s first therapy dog Elsa retiring after 12,000 patient visits

“Elsa would lie in bed with her when she couldn’t get out of bed. Christiana could pet her and find some comfort in it. It would make her smile.”

HOUSTON — The first therapy dog ​​at Texas Children’s Hospital is retiring at the end of this week and she will be missed by the young patients who have looked forward to her visits.

Elsa the Golden Retriever has been a comforting presence for thousands of children facing difficult health conditions. In recent years, she and her counselor, Sarah Herbek, have focused on helping cancer patients.

Elsa developed a special bond with 14-year-old Christiana Vigil, who recently had a bone marrow transplant.

“They are very hard on her body, they make her sick. The only thing – if we come once a week for those treatments – that’s our thing. When you’re done, you can see Elsa and Sarah,” Christiana’s mother Keri told me. U.S.

Keri said the therapy dog ​​was often the only thing that helped Christiana feel better.

“Elsa would lie in bed with her when she couldn’t get out of bed. Christiana could pet her and find some comfort in it,’ Keri said. ‘She should smile about it. There were days when only Elsa and Sarah could put a smile on her face.”

Sarah said that Elsa has visited thousands of patients during her career.

“Elsa just comes into their room and jumps on the bed. It instantly changes the feel of the room and makes kids feel safer, which in turn helps them cope with everything they’re going through in the hospital,” she said. Sarah us.

Many are fighting for their lives. And Elsa’s visits allow patients to be children for a while.

“She always makes my day better,” Christiana said.

Doctors and nurses may be the ones providing life-saving treatments, but so many families will be eternally grateful to Elsa and Sarah for every smile, every hug.

“As a mom, I could call her and say, ‘Hey, we need to do this. We need to do that.’ She’d say, ‘I’ll be right there,’ and she’ll come,” Keri said.

After six years of service and more than 12,000 hospital visits, Sarah says it’s time for Elsa to retire and take a much-needed break.

“I think it’s very important – these dogs give us so much of themselves – that we pay attention to them and their needs. She tells me she’s ready. She deserves years of happy retirement,” Sarah said.

Elsa has comforted thousands of children who went through a tough health battle at Texas Children’s Hospital.

She was the first therapy dog ​​hired at TCH. She is retiring this week. Her impact was great ❤️

Enjoy your retirement Elsa! You earned it.#khou11

— Stephanie Whitfield (@KHOUStephanie) April 5, 2022

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