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It doesn't get much cuter than the parade of visitors who delighted patients at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston over the weekend. Four golden retrievers— Elsa, Pinto, Pluto, and Bailey—and their handlers trotted around the hospital in matching Christmas pajamas, bringing joy to neurology and transplant patients and their families ahead of the holidays.

The pups are ambassadors for Texas Children's Pawsitive Play Program, which is designed to "enhance the emotional well-being of patients and families" who might be having trouble coping. 

One mother, whose daughter was admitted after having a stroke, spoke to KHOU11 about the benefits of animal-assisted therapy that she's witnessed firsthand.

"I mean, it completely lights her up. She got the biggest smile. Since being here after her stroke, she hasn't had a lot of expressions," she told the local news station. "Yesterday, Pinto came in and she about jumped out of her bed, so it's amazing to see."

Texas Children's Hospital Dogs
Credit: Texas Children's Hospital

The canine members of the Pawsitive Play Program are specially bred and trained to work as service dogs in a pediatric hospital setting. According to the hospital website, each receives more than a year and a half of training before beginning their roles at Texas Children's Hospital. Then dogs work full-time alongside the hospital's child life specialists.

Animal-assisted therapy has been shown to improve emotional well-being, happiness, calm, relaxation, healing, adjustment to hospital environment, and self-confidence. It has also been proven to reduce anxiety, perception of pain, fear, and isolation.

Texas Childrens Hospital Dogs Pajamas
Credit: Texas Children's Hospital

Another mother told KHOU11 that the therapy dogs were a nice distraction during her daughter's recently hospital stay.

"It calms her down a lot, and I appreciate that," she said. "That's all she was talking about when they left."