DERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital has a new employee: a facility dog to help patients relieve stress.
Kaia, a golden retriever, is the first full-time facility dog at a hospital in Pennsylvania.
Kaia is about 2 years old and helps calm down patients and ease their anxiety before tests and procedures. She has been at the hospital in Derry Township, Dauphin County, for about a week.
She is learning to help patients specifically in the radiology and radiation oncology departments, like during CT scans.
Ashley Kane, the manager of Child Life Program, said, "Kaia can demonstrate how to lay nice and still and flat like she's doing now. And hopefully the child would feel more comfortable being under that big camera or less anxious that something will hurt them when Kaia shows them it's really not too scary."
The Children's Hospital is the first in Pennsylvania to have a dog like Kaia. She works full-time: 40 hours a week.
"Having Kaia here really 8 hours a day every day just makes it possible for more families, more kids to have those interactions when they're having a moment where they just need something special to brighten their day," Kane said.
But Kaia is different than a therapy dog. She's actually a service dog.
"She's just a little bit different, a little more specialized, and had a little more intensive training using a different approach to help her know what to do here in a hospital," Kane said.
She also helps the staff and parents relieve stress.
Kane said, "I just think it really improves the mood of everyone here in the hospital. It's been wonderful to see everyone be so happy."
And officials said Kaia loves what she does.
Kane said, "When she's at home with me, she's just a typical dog. But when her vest is on and she's here at the hospital, this is her job. This is work for her. And I think she enjoys it. She seems pretty comfortable in her new environment. So we're really excited that she's here."
Only about 30 children's hospitals across the country have facility dogs like Kaia.