Casper, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s first therapy dog, recently died. He was 15.

Known for his gentle disposition and uncanny intuition, Casper, a golden retriever and yellow Labrador mix, 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 helped improve the lives of countless patients and employees.

Together, they founded the Canines For Kids Program, among the first of these programs in the country, and paved the way for dozens of other dogs to find their workday homes in pediatric hospitals across the country. Children’s now has 14 therapy dogs.

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.

In 2018, Casper retired and enjoyed his golden years with his very best friend, because after 28 years at Children’s, Kinsel retired, too.

Kinsel said Casper’s schedule at Children’s started early in the morning around 7 a.m. shift change. Casper eagerly jumped out of the car and grabbed his leash out of Kinsel’s hand. He started his day by receiving warm hugs and pets from staff heading home after an evening shift. Tail held high, Casper pranced into the lobby greeting staff, patients and families. Casper’s rounds took him to meet and comfort anxious young patients awaiting CT scans and MRIs. He also spent time in recovery, greeting patients waking up from surgery with a furry kiss, and warm, by-their-side companionship.

“Casper could get on a bed with a patient and look past their bandages, tubes or wires. He loved them just the way they were,” said Kinsel in an e-mail. “It meant the patient, if only for a few minutes, could forget why they were in the hospital or least set them at ease.”

Kinsel said one of her most cherished memories was the special bond between Casper and a patient, Creed Campbell, of Roswell.

Creed’s mom Stephanie Campbell, also remembered the special bond, recalling in an e-mail, making special visits to see Casper after hospital visits.

“We would walk to see Casper, Creed would crawl under Lisa’s desk with Casper and the two of them would nap until it was time to go home. Creed would walk Casper to his car, climb in the backseat with him, take his pack and collar off and give him a hug and kiss,” she said.

Born prematurely, Creed spent his first 91 days in the hospital, followed by countless visits to the hospital. He was diagnosed with Monosomy 7, a chromosomal defect that affects the bone marrow and increases the risk for leukemia. After complications from a blood and marrow transplant, Creed was hospitalized for seven months. Creed died in April 2012. He was 7 years old.

“Casper knew Creed needed him and never failed to be whatever was needed from him. These stories go on and on but at the end of the day nothing made Creed smile like Casper,” his mom said.