Dogs | Animals

Children's Hospital Patients Connect with Dogs Through Shared Experience

“You don’t have to worry about your appearances or the way you look,” 10-year-old Mary Elena says in a video taken at the annual Best Friends Bash on Saturday, where she hung out with Monroe, a dachshund who underwent a full mouth dental extraction. “It’s a bonding thing.”

The annual gathering at Penn Vet's Hill Pavilion gives children who are craniofacial patients at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia a chance to connect with canine craniofacial patients in an environment where they can be inspired by their similar journey.

The 3-hour event gave the children and dogs a chance to bond.

See adorable pictures from the event on the next page.

There were many dogs there to boost the youngsters' spirits.

Emma, a golden retriever who had surgery to remove a craniofacial tumor, Tarot, a Rhodesian Ridgeback who had extensive dental work for a sever overbite, Bosco, a Rottweiler with a skull deformity, Cyprus, a mixed breed dog who was born without front legs and Vivian, a Staffordshire Terrier Mix who serves as a Therapy Dog Ambassador for the National Dog Show were all in attendance of the 4th annual event.

“They’re going through the same things as many of us did, but without a care in the world,” 18-year-old Dan said. “They know how to live in the here and the now. It shows me that I’m not alone and reminds me to stay strong.”

“You can see all of the different things they’ve gone through that you can relate to,” Mary Elena added. “There was a dog that had surgery for cleft lip and palate and I had surgery for frontonasal dysplasia. It’s just so wonderful and so fun to see these dogs and pet them and learn what they’ve gone through. I always leave being amazed by the dogs. They inspire me.”

“It’s a way to teach kids resilience and to show them that different is good,” said Dr. Maria Soltero-Rivera, adjunct assistant professor in Dentistry & Oral Surgery at Penn Vet and one of the organizers of the event. “And we’re able to do this in an unspoken language through the kids and the dogs interacting together.”