Casper, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s first therapy dog, has recently retired after 9 years of service.
He began his career at Children’s in September 2009 as the hospital’s first four-legged employee. Alongside his handler, Lisa Kinsel, volunteer services manager at Children’s Scottish Rite, Casper has helped improve the lives of countless patients and employees.
Casper gets to enjoy his retirement days with his very best friend, because after 28 years at Children’s, Lisa is retiring, too. Kinsel said she’s happy to start the next chapter of her life with Casper by her side. “I’m his touchstone,” she said in an e-mail. “And he’s mine.”
Casper and Lisa are leaving behind a legacy built to last: the Children’s Canines For Kids program. Children’s furry fleet now has 16 working dogs in the program. Those four-legged friends help make Children’s patients, families and employees feel the love and support they need during a particularly stressful appointment, procedure or work day.
The program began in 2009 with Casper and his handler, Lisa Kinsel. Children’s Canines For Kids program, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, has been replicated in more than 20 other pediatric or medical institutions across the United States. Children’s has helped train other institutions to help them implement similar programs.
The highly trained facility dogs are from Canine Assistants, a national organization with an office in Milton. Canine Assistants raise and train service dogs from physical disabilities and other special needs. Potential service dogs undergo 18 months of training, learning to remain calm in various situations while focusing their attention on their handlers.
For a touching story about a special relationship between Casper and a former patient and best friend named Creed, visit a CHOA’s blog post (and you may want to grab some tissues first).
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