Texas Children's Hospital welcomes first full-time therapy dog

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Texas Children's Hospital gets first full-time therapy dog
Golden retriever Elsa, the newest staff member at Texas Children's Hospital, is specially trained to interact with children battling illnesses.

HOUSTON -- Texas Children's Hospital has a new four-legged employee helping make a big difference in day-to-day care for some of the smallest patients.

Elsa the golden retriever is specially trained to interact with children battling illnesses. TCH has had therapy dogs visit before, but Elsa is the first full-timer.

She lives with Sarah Herbek, her trainer.

"She's always very calm when she's working," Herbek said. "But when she's home and the vest comes off, she's any other dog -- chewing up shoes, or the bark off a tree."

At the hospital, with her green vest and picture ID badge on, it's back to business helping patients like Molly LeBlanc.

"Molly's been in and out of the hospital her whole life," her mother, Jill LeBlanc, said.

Molly is battling a genetic disorder called polycystic kidney disease or PKD. She had both kidneys removed just two weeks ago.

"We were having a lot of trouble getting her out of bed and Elsa helped us get her up to stand for the first time. She made a hard day a little easier," Jill said.

Elsa is funded by a donor family who wanted to give the patients a lasting gift. Herbek and Elsa have only been on the job for a couple weeks and already Elsa's celebrity status is taking off.

"It takes us a long time to get anywhere. People stop us every three feet," Herbek said.

Elsa makes the rounds visiting patients like Molly everyday. Molly is receiving in-patient care getting dialysis as she awaits a kidney transplant. Elsa brings a much-needed boost for a little lady taking on a big battle, Jill said.

"She sees Elsa or hears that she's coming and she's ready to go," Jill added.