University Hospitals welcomes two additional facility dogs

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The 15-month-old golden retrievers work full-time in the pediatric intensive care unit and volunteer services department at UH Cleveland Medical Center  

University Hospitals (UH) welcomed two new four-legged members to its staff. Loki, a male, is working in the Volunteer Services Department. Natasha, a female, is working in the pediatric intensive care unit at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. Loki and Natasha arrived from Canine Assistants in Atlanta via a Flexjet Praetor 500 midsized jet last month.

Loki and Natasha join Melena, a female Golden Retriever working in UH Rainbow’s Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute, and Blue, a male Golden/Lab Doodle working in UH Seidman Cancer Center’s Breen Breast Health Center.   

“Melena and Blue have made an extraordinary impact on our patients and staff at University Hospitals,” says Diane Pekarek, Marion C. Risman & Family Endowed Pet Pals Coordinator at UH. “We are so grateful to PetSmart Charities for their support through grant funds to expand our program, and to Flexjet for providing a comfortable and convenient transportation services to bring Natasha and Loki to their new homes in Cleveland.”

There are only 150 facility dogs with this highly specialized training working at hospitals across the country. University Hospitals welcomed its first full-time facility dogs in fall of 2020. The dogs are specially trained to keep patients calm before, during, and after medical procedures, and they provide comfort and support to staff, patients and family members in a hospital setting. Unlike therapy dogs, facility dogs train with their handler to assist in duties of their specific work environment.

In addition to its facility dog program, University Hospitals offers Pet Pals, a pet therapy program that uses trained volunteers and their adult dogs, in-room visits to adults and children who would enjoy the company of a furry friend. One cat, one pony, and a goldfish are also part of the Pet Pals program.
“When a patient comes to the hospital, it’s at a time of intense stress and worry. However, when patients see a facility dog or pet therapy animal, their faces, and their demeanor change,” says Diane. “No matter how sick patients are, they always want a pet pal to visit them.”

About University Hospitals / Cleveland, Ohio
Founded in 1866, University Hospitals serves the needs of patients through an integrated network of more than 20 hospitals (including five joint ventures), more than 50 health centers and outpatient facilities, and over 200 physician offices in 16 counties throughout northern Ohio. The system’s flagship quaternary care, academic medical center, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Oxford University and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. The main campus also includes the UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation; UH MacDonald Women's Hospital, Ohio's only hospital for women; and UH Seidman Cancer Center, part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. UH is home to some of the most prestigious clinical and research programs in the nation, with more than 3,000 active clinical trials and research studies underway. UH Cleveland Medical Center is perennially among the highest performers in national ranking surveys, including “America’s Best Hospitals” from U.S. News & World Report. UH is also home to 19 Clinical Care Delivery and Research Institutes. UH is one of the largest employers in Northeast Ohio with more than 30,000 employees. Follow UH on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. For more information, visit

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