Children and adults, young and old, dog lovers and those that might be a little timid, all have the same reaction when they catch a glimpse of Hirschey: a smile and a wish to pet a welcoming surprise they did not expect to see in their midst.

From the moment we walk in the doors of Texas Children’s Hospital and make our way to visit patients, I constantly hear comments and watch people pointing fingers at Hirschey as they become excited and ask to meet him.

A little background about my four-legged canine friend: Hirschey, a Yorkshire terrier, turns 15 years-old on January 1 and we have been together since he was eight-weeks old. We have made so many wonderful memories with each other, played around for hours and hours, and have taken thousands of walks together, meeting many people and (just as important) other dogs along the way.

However, nothing has had the massive impact that he provides during our weekly visits to Texas Children’s Hospital as we take part in the visiting animal program. Although we have also been guests of senior-living residential facilities and participated in school reading programs, the reaction we receive during our hospital visits is amazing and touching.

Our visits consist primarily of spending time with children in a playroom setting, which offers patients different opportunities to interact with a pet and other children. Some kids love playing on the floor with Hirschey, and for those that are unable to do that, I pick up Hirschey so they can pet him and even have him sit on their lap. We also accommodate bedside requests to individual rooms when they are made.

In many cases, Hirschey’s visit provides a child the opportunity to interact with a dog for the first time since being away from home, produces some normalcy during their hospital stay, and results in a more positive experience under the circumstances from his calming presence.

And just as important, many others also directly benefit from our interactions, including parents, siblings, and family members of the patient, as well as hospital staff, nurses, and doctors.

The constant positive feedback we receive is truly meaningful and contributes to the many reasons Hirschey and I continue to support the program. I am very grateful to Pet Partners for the platform it provides its teams and the opportunity to share this wonderful program with the public.

A big thank you to Texas Children’s Hospital for the great relationship we have built since Hirschey and I piloted this new program earlier this year, and to the staff we see each week who make our visits even more special.

And I am so blessed to have Hirschey as my partner and being able to further develop our human-animal bond.

Story provided by Alex Hirschfeld