Meet Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Newest Four-Legged Essential Worker

Aries is one of the hospital’s 14 full-time facility dogs.

Please help us in congratulating a very good boy on a successful first day at his new job.

This week, the Canines For Kids program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) welcomed a golden retriever named Aries to its facility dog team. The handsome, three-year-old pup will spend his days supporting patients at the hospital's Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Aries' job is to make kids feel more at home while undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplants.

CHOA Facility Dog Aries
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

This specially trained pup will support young patients during some of the most challenging times in their lives. With tail wags, slobbery kisses, or simply his presence, Aries will provide comfort and stress reduction and help ease pain and nausea. It's a big job, but he's up for the task.

Like countless other hospitals, COVID-19 has forced CHOA to do away with most of the activities that help to distract recovering children. The presence of facility dogs is more important than ever.

"I think that for our patients, animal-assisted therapy is a wonderful resource to promote coping with pain, nausea, anxiety, and stress when sometimes many other coping strategies might not be as beneficial," Jessica Westbrooks, Aries' primary handler and Child Life Specialist at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, said in a news release. "I'm very excited to get to support our teenage patients who might be struggling with missing peers, siblings, and family members during hospital visits and lengthy hospital stays."

Aries is one of 14 full-time facility dogs employed by CHOA's Canines For Kids program. He follows in the pawsteps of pups like Izzy, who, after changing the lives of countless children through her work in the hospital library, passed away in November 2020.

"I think Aries will be a wonderful teammate in creating lasting memories with families during a stressful time when making memories together cannot always be the focus due to anxiety and frequent hospitalization," Westbrooks added.

Go get 'em, Aries!

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