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All TCU. All the time.

TCU 360

TCU alumni connect with each other at Guy Fieri’s Dive & Taco Joint in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. on Friday Oct. 7, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Tristen Smith)
How TCU's alumni chapters keep the Horned Frog spirit alive post-grad
By Addison Thummel, Staff Writer
Published May 11, 2024
TCU graduates can stay connected with the Horned Frog community with alumni chapters across the nation.

Puppy love: Cook Children’s encourages families through facility dog program

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Sydney Hanes
Laura Sonefeld and Steve play important roles in the hospital’s Sit…Stay… PLAY facility dog program.

Some of the staff members of Cook Children’s Medical Center have a special ability to unleash joy. 

“Steve is my guy, he’s my other half,” Laura Sonefeld, a child life specialist, said. Members of the child life team send referrals to Sonefeld and Steve to help lift patient spirits and provide emotional support. 

Sonefeld is the facility dog program coordinator, and Steve, a golden doodle, is her canine assistant. 

 

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Along with Steve and Zuni, Neely, Kitty, Cayenne and Brienne are members of the Sit…Stay.. PLAY team. (Photo courtesy of Sydney Hanes)

“He’s my coworker at work and my child at home,” Sonefeld said. “And when we’re out of work, he is a normal dog. And he is very much normal.”

The Sit…Stay… PLAY program has been in place at Cook Children’s for 10 years. Five other dogs and their handlers accompany Steve and Sonefeld on the staff. 

Valerie Lohmar, recreational therapist in the inpatient psychiatry unit, works with Zuni, a Labrador golden retriever mix.

Steve (left) began his work at Cook Children’s in 2019, and Zuni (right) joined the team in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Sydney Hanes)

“She can be a little bit sassy, which I think is perfect for our population,” Lohmar said.  “Some of the other dogs are more snuggly, and some of them are more playful, and some of them are really good at reading the room and who needs the most love.”

Lohmar also added that Zuni can tell when patients are having a bad day.

Valerie Lohmar, recreational therapist and Labrador golden retriever mix, Zuni, work with patients in the partial hospitalization program and the inpatient psychiatry unit. (Photo courtesy of Sydney Hanes)

Sonefeld said in 2013, the then-director of family life services learned of a similar program at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta and wanted one at Cook Children’s. Six months later, the medical center had its first two dogs.

“It’s really cool to see how the dogs can really light up a room,” Hanes said. “It’s really cool to see how the dogs can read the rooms… In one room, they pick up on a patient wanting a more playful environment and for some others, they just want a dog to lay with them.”

She said all the dogs are very intuitive and Steve is also very empathetic with families. 

“There are times where you walk into a patient room, and Steve is more impactful for the parent than for the patient,” Sonefeld said. “He knows what he’s supposed to do, who he needs to go up to and who needs the most comfort. And sometimes that’s dad, sometimes it’s mom and the kids just enjoying a dog. But dad’s the one that really needs the support, though.”

Sydney Hanes, digital communications senior specialist, said families have been known to bond with the dogs.

“I feel like a lot of people who see work dogs think that they are very stoic and very serious all the time,” she said. “Honestly, that is completely the opposite.”

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