"Every Little Smile Counts": Therapy Dogs Deliver Valentines to SoCal Hospital Patients - NBC New York
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"Every Little Smile Counts": Therapy Dogs Deliver Valentines to SoCal Hospital Patients

"You know, sitting here with your child can be a little heartbreaking, seeing whatever it is that they've been going through," one parent said. "But every little smile counts."

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    This Valentine's Day holiday will be anything but "ruff" for the children and elderly patients at two Southern California hospitals thanks to some extra-loving pups.

    A group of therapy dogs donning valentine costumes delivered custom-made Valentine's Day cards to the patients at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA in Westwood and UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica.

    "I'm sure that all these kids here on this floor aren't smiling about too many things, with whatever procedures they've had, but with bringing the dogs in like this, it's kind of brought a smile to their face, and in turn it brings smiles to parents' face," said Chris Sanders, whose son suffers from epilepsy and has undergone brain surgery.

    "You know, sitting here with your child can be a little heartbreaking, seeing whatever it is that they've been going through," Sanders said. "But every little smile counts."

    The pooches are part of UCLA's People-Animal Connection (PAC), a program that has visited more than 100,000 patients since it started in 1994, according to their website.

    One of the dogs, a Labrador retriever named Bubbles, visited a 17-year-old boy with kidney failure, said Kim Irwin, UCLA Health Sciences spokeswoman.

    Irwin said the teen was happy to see Bubble, and that he said this year, he had a valentine.

    The event aims to give the patients a reminder of what "normal" life outside of a hospital is like, Irwin said.

    "What’s more normal than a dog?" she said.

    This is PAC's third annual Valentine's Day celebration, Irwin said. The dogs also visit the UCLA medical centers on a regular basis, and for holidays including Halloween and Christmas.