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Sit...Stay...PLAY Program

A warm and fuzzy hug can help anyone feel better. A dog's healing presence is known to have a positive influence on wellness. That's the driving force behind Sit...Stay...PLAY, the facility dog program at Cook Children's.

Interacting with a dog can help your child—and your family members—feel more at ease by reducing stress and anxiety. At Cook Children's, we have professionally trained dogs on our staff through a partnership with Canine Assistants, a service dog agency in Georgia. A team of Cook Children's employees has been trained as the dogs' handlers, and each day the dogs come to work to serve as part of our therapeutic environment. Whether the dogs come in and just sit by your child's side or help them recover from a procedure, there are added health benefits—and lots of happy tales!

Some of the benefits of interaction with our facility dogs are:

  • Providing an alternate focus from illness symptoms, pain and medical treatment.
  • Offering unconditional love and acceptance.
  • Motivating and supporting patient coping through encouragement.
  • Reducing anxiety by providing physical contact and a soft touch.
  • Improving fitness by encouraging exercise (especially after surgery).
  • Promoting social interaction.
  • Reducing feelings of loss and loneliness for patients who are missing home, family and pets.

A generous amount of love

Thanks to the generosity of donors, the Cook Children's family includes a crew of happy and helpful golden retrievers, golden doodles and and Labrador retrievers. In addition to making a donation through our foundation, we also appreciate in-kind donations. Our fluffy Sit...Stay...PLAY team brings comfort and healing to patients, families and staff. Supporting our wish list is a great way to let them know how much they're appreciated.

The Sit...Stay...PLAY program at Cook Children's is entirely funded by the generous contributions from community members; no fees are charged to our patients and families. Your support of this program ensures that this program serves patients for years to come.

Donate to Sit...Stay...PLAY

Help support our Facility Dog program with wish list items:


  • Any size bag of Purina Pro Plan Adult Large Breed Focus
  • Any size bag of Purina Pro Plan Weight Management
  • Boxes of film for our on-the-go cameras: Fujifilm instax mini 8 (any color/variety)
  • Decorative and/or seasonal leashes
  • Decorative and/or seasonal bandanas, bows, collar flowers, bow ties, etc.
  • Dog shampoo
  • Dog brushes (soft ones patients could use to brush the dogs)
  • Dentley’s brand rawhides (please no braids or knots as these can injure teeth)
  • Tennis balls
  • Kong and Nerf dog toys
  • Water bowls
  • Lint rollers (especially travel size)

Gift cards

  • Petsmart
  • Amazon
  • Target
  • Wag Canine Emporium

For more information on how you can help fulfill our wish list, please contact the Facility Dog Program at 682-885-6639.

Our team

Meet Brienne


Brienne is handled by Child Life specialist Anne Stankus, Danielle Spruill and Emily Hood. Brienne spends time with patients on the Rehabilitation and Transitional Care Unit, the Dodson Surgery Center and the Special Procedures Area. Brienne came to work at Cook Children’s in October 2019 alongside her cousin Steve who are both golden doodles. She loves to find the largest stick in the yard to play with and is well known for her incredibly long golden eyelashes.

Meet Chanel


Chanel is handled by Child Life specialist Kat Davitt, Amy Sandlin and pain team staff member Wendy Wood. Chanel spends time with our inpatient Hematology and Oncology patients, inpatient surgery recovery and trauma patients and joins our pain management team for patient visits as well. She is as snuggly as they come and is always willing to lend a supportive paw for patients in need.

Meet Journey


Journey is handled by Child Life specialists Julia Smeltzer and Child Life manager Katie Campbell. Journey spends time seeing patients in inpatient cardiac step down unit and recently began rounding to provide staff support. Journey came to work at Cook Children's along with her cousin Kitty. She can often be heard "talking," especially with toys in her mouth, and loves to wear bows in her hair.

Meet Kitty


Kitty is handled by Child Advocacy Resource and Evaluation (CARE) team director Dr. Jamye Coffman and CARE team staff members Stacy Starkes and Lorie Palacios. Kitty came to us along with her cousin Journey, and works closely with the CARE team. Kitty is a spunky and sweet dog and loves to help calm patients during their exams and then play hard on her break!

Meet Neely


Neely is handled by Nurse Manager Shane Shockley and Family Therapists Abby Blakely and Laura Anne Burgos. Neely spends her time seeing patients and families on the Inpatient Psychiatry Unit as well as in the Partial Hospitalization Program. Neely is a GREAT listener! She helps kids feel safe talking about big feelings and tough issues like trauma. You can frequently find her on the South Tower Lawn running, playing, chasing a ball, or trying to spend time with her favorite squirrel.

Meet Steve


Steve is handled by Facility Dog Program Coordinator and Child Life specialist Laura Sonefeld and Child Life Zone Program Coordinator Rayne Delgado. Steve spends time with patients and families in the Child Life Zone, and fulfills dog consults in the Dodson Speciality Clinics and several inpatient areas across the hospital. Steve came to work at Cook Children’s with his cousin Brienne in October 2019 and is the youngest facility dog at Cook Children’s. Steve believes he is a 64 pound lap dog and loves any opportunity to play fetch.



Zuni is handled by recreational therapist, Valerie Lohmar. Zuni is the mild-mannered but spunky gal who works with patients in the Partial Hospitalization Program and on the inpatient Psychiatry unit. Zuni loves to use her skills as a great communicator, and you will frequently find her interacting with patients by giving handshakes, high fives and fist bumps. She’s even been known to "speak!" Zuni loves any toy with a squeaker and is very fond of playing chase with her doggy friends!

Contact us

For more information about Sit...Stay...PLAY, please contact Laura Sonefeld, 682-885-6639.

The latest tales from our team!

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