Meet Facility Dogs Drummer and Leica

I am thrilled to introduce you to the two newest, four-legged members of our Child Life team – meet Drummer and Leica!

You may have seen our new facility dogs if you’ve visited the medical center this year. Leica (pronounced “Like-Ah”) works primarily with me and Drummer works primarily with Ashley Rivet, another Child Life Specialist. The dogs joined the staff in February as part of our new Animal Assisted Therapy Program.

When I heard the facility dogs were coming to Cincinnati Children’s, I immediately applied to be one of the handlers. I love animals and understand the importance of the relationship between animals and people. I have one other dog at home, a chocolate Lab named Brinley, who turns 3 years old in April. Before Brinley I had Riley, who I trained to become a therapy dog.

Facility dogs are different than the volunteer dogs you’re used to seeing at the hospital. Drummer and Leica are certified service dogs, meaning they have received training since birth to assist with specific tasks. Our facility dogs will always wear green service vests when working and the volunteer dogs will continue to wear their blue volunteer vests when visiting.

So far we’ve been very encouraged by all of the smiles and kind words we’ve received from the patients and families who have met, seen or worked with Leica and Drummer. Our facility dogs love meeting new people and we appreciate your support!

We’ve also received lots of good questions. Read on to learn more about Drummer and Leica, or leave your questions in the comments below and we’ll get back to you!

What’s the purpose of having the facility dogs?

Leica and Drummer are available to comfort patients and families. Being able to pet or hold the dogs can make coping easier and take attention off the situation at hand. I tell my patients that not only will the dog be there to support and keep you calm through an appointment or procedure, but that you should do the same for the dog. Having the “job” of supporting the dog functions as a good distraction. Facility dogs can also normalize a hospital visit, especially for patients and families who have pets at home.

Where at the hospital do the facility dogs work?

Drummer and Leica work full-time with us at Main/Burnet Campus. They are able to go to the bedside and see children who may or may not be able to leave their room; however, the dogs can’t visit patients in isolation. We always get permission first before bringing a dog to meet a patient. Leica works with outpatients. She’s been with me for appointments and non-sterile procedures in the Orthopaedic Clinic and the Rehabilitation Clinic. Drummer works with inpatients in the Josh Cares program. We are unable to take referrals at this time, but we’re working to develop a referral process in the future. Right now we want to let Drummer and Leica get comfortable with their new surroundings.

How should we approach the facility dogs if we see and want to meet them?

If you see Drummer or Leica and want to pet them, ask a handler – we like to teach children to ask first when approaching all dogs in all settings. Everyone who pets the dogs should use hand sanitizer both before and after to help limit the spread of germs. We carry hand sanitizer and wipes at all times. Please be mindful that our facility dogs are working dogs with jobs to do. If we can’t stop, it’s probably because we’re on our way to meet a patient.

For more answers to frequently asked questions about the Animal Assisted Therapy Program, go to www.cincinnatichildrens.org/service/c/child-life/dogs/.

Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI

About the Author: Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI

Kerri is a Child Life Specialist in Cincinnati Children’s outpatient departments. She’s worked at the medical center since 2013. Kerri has always had a passion for serving children and animals and was recently paired up with one of the facility service dogs, Leica. Together they will be teaming up to support patients and families through outpatient procedures.

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Comments

  1. Tina March 14, 13:03
    What tasks are these dogs trained to do that differentiates them from therapy dogs? The article only mentions that they provide support, which isn't considered a trained task.
  2. Kmbr March 14, 13:11
    Please use the correct term - these are therapy dogs. Service dogs are trained to do certain tasks for one handler. They are adorable and I'm sure everyone will benefit from them. --Kmbr
    • Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI
      Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI Author March 16, 10:55
      Hi Kmbr - Thank you for your comment. The official term for Leica and Drummer is "facility dog" and we have updated the blog post to use that term exclusively. They are not therapy dogs. Although these dogs are not working with a persons with a disability, they received the same training that the other service dogs from their facility (Canine Assistants) received, and have been trained for specific tasks. The dogs were individually paired with their handlers and each handler received training with their individual dog. They each received a certification as a service dog which allows us to utilize the dogs in a higher capacity compared to our volunteer therapy dogs. Since they are utilized in a unique capacity we will be more careful to only use the "facility dog" term when describing their role.
  3. Good Guide Dog March 14, 13:45
    While the job the dogs have is indeed very important, they are not 'service dogs' as defined by law, and should not be identified as such. You are correct in identifying them a 'facility dogs', which is accurate. To be a 'service dog', the animal must be paired with an individual who is disabled, and be trained in mitigating tasks related to the individuals disability. For more information, see here: www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html Specifically Q 1, Q 2, and Q 3.
    • Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI
      Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI Author March 16, 10:38
      Hi Good Guide Dog - This is helpful feedback and we understand the points you have made. Although these dogs are not working with a persons with a disability, they received the same training that the other service dogs from their facility (Canine Assistants) received, have been trained for specific tasks and have received a certification as service dogs. Since they are not utilized in the exact role defined by the ADA, we have adjusted the wording in this post to use exclusively "facility dogs" as a description.
  4. Stu March 14, 15:48
    Kerri Burkett, good article but you should do your research. You need to know that therapy dogs and service dogs are two very different things and they are not. Interchangeable. Service dogs are trained to do tasks to help a disabled person. Check the ADA. Therapy dogs provide comfort for anyone who needs it. They are not tasked trained. Therapy dogs are not covered under the ADA. Thank for your time.
    • Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI
      Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI Author March 16, 10:35
      Hi Stu - This is very helpful feedback. Although these dogs are not working with a persons with a disability, they received the same training that the other service dogs from their facility (Canine Assistants) received, and have been trained for specific tasks. The dogs were individually paired with their handlers and each handler received training with their individual dog. They have received a certification as a service dog which allows us to utilize the dogs in a higher capacity compared to our volunteer therapy dogs. Since they are not utilized in the same role, we refer to Leica and Drummer as facility dogs. We've adjusted the wording in this post to reflect the use of the term facility dogs so as to avoid further confusion.
  5. Marge March 14, 17:34
    So good to see sweet Leica and Drummer in their new roles! They have been trained well and are awesome dogs.
  6. Linda March 14, 22:32
    Congratulations to Cincinnati Childrens for recognizing the power in that dog friend. Good luck!
  7. Mrs. Lemmon's Class March 15, 08:57
    Our first grade class is reading about how animals help people this week. We loved your video! The dogs are cute and sweet! We think it is nice that they are keeping the kids company. They make the kids calm down if they are really scared. The dogs are helpful. We would love to know more about how they train the dogs to be helpful!
    • Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI
      Kerri Birkett, CCLS, CIMI Author March 16, 10:48
      Hi Mrs. Lemmon's Class - It is so exciting to hear that your class is interested in learning about our new facility dogs! Most Canine Assistants service dogs are born, raised, and trained at their facility in Milton, Georgia, while some are occasionally adopted from local organizations or breeders. Canine Assistants service dogs assist children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs in a variety of ways. Some of the tasks the dogs perform include turning lights on and off, opening and closing doors, pulling wheelchairs, retrieving dropped objects, summoning help, and providing secure companionship. Since we are using Leica and Drummer in a slightly different capacity, we refer to them as facility dogs. Training for Leica and Drummer started early in their life. They spent a lot of time learning basic obedience skills and taking frequent trips to restaurants, stores, etc. to expose them to many different areas. Both of them were also exposed to a hospital setting by taking lots of trips (roughly 100 visits during their life) to hospitals near Canine Assistants in Georgia. Leica and Drummer are able to sense when there is a need for comfort, and seek out that from a patient or family member. Learn more at www.cincinnatichildrens.org/service/c/child-life/dogs/ or go to www.canineassistants.org.
  8. Peter Watts March 15, 15:40
    Once again, CCHMC amazes with the services provided to help our children. Add meeting Leica and Drummer to an ever growing list of must do, and must see while at the Hospital. Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center is a wonderful facility with amazing staff, now both two and four legged, who have 'Changed the Outcome' time and again for our daughters. Number three in the nation is number one in our hearts.
  9. Tammy March 23, 10:46
    This was an AMAZING article! We LOVE Drummer and Leica!
  10. Sven March 27, 12:01
    Drummer was on HLN w Susan Hedricks.
  11. Liv May 03, 10:14
    I am just grateful for the addition to the CCHMC community, and wish Drummer and Leica all the best in their future with us! They look like great dogs : ) Thanks for the well written article about them!