CHAMPs program brings guard dogs to American Family Childrens Hospital for patient support

MADISON, Wis. – There’s a cuddly new employee at American Family Children’s Hospital who’s ready to comfort children during their treatment.

Kiko is a 2-year-old golden retriever from Georgia who just arrived at the hospital this week to work as a settlement dog. She is the first dog in the healthcare provider’s Canine Health and Medical Pals program known as CHAMPs. She is also the first establishment dog in the state.

The new program pairs a facility dog ​​with a child life specialist who will provide personalized treatments and a coping plan. For example, the dog may sit next to the patient while they undergo a stressful procedure or have blood drawn.

Kiko will live with Brianna Hampton, one of UW Health’s Child Life Specialists, and will come to work with her every day.

“Kiko has a very calming presence and most kids are already familiar with dogs, so she will be a great addition to our team,” Hampton said. “Kiko is the first facility dog ​​in the state of Wisconsin. I’m honored to work with her and can’t wait to get started.

Children’s Hospital partners with a nonprofit organization in Georgia called Canine Assistants, which matches dogs with hospitals. The partnership will provide the hospital with two fully trained dogs to work with the Child Life Team.

The second dog will arrive in the spring of 2022.

Kiko will start onboarding in October and should start working with patients soon.

UW Health officials said the new program is funded entirely by philanthropic donations. Each dog has an individual sponsor. The CHAMPs program also includes a partnership with the UW School of Veterinary Medicine who will take care of all medical needs for the dog.