Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children (KMCWC) welcomes new Chief Canine Officer Ruby to its team. The two-year-old Labrador Retriever is a full-time Hospital Facility Dog and was selected for the role due to her gentle nature and love of children. She was trained and donated by Assistance Dogs of Hawaii.
“We are so excited to have Ruby as part of the team here at Kapiolani,” said Kapiolani Chief Operating Officer Gidget Ruscetta. “Working together with Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, we took our time to ensure we found the right dog that would be the best fit to work with our pediatric patients and staff, and Ruby has been wonderful. With all that our patients and staff have endured due to COVID-19 over the past year, Ruby’s presence is appreciated more than ever.”
Kapiolani’s Hospital Facility Dog Program for pediatric patients is facilitated by Child Life Services Supervisor of Pediatric Services Heather Tamaye who acts as Ruby’s handler. Ruby traveled from her birthplace in California to be trained at Assistance Dogs of Hawaii’s Northwest and Maui training facilities before arriving at Kapiolani. She knows over 90 commands and provides support and comfort to pediatric patients, many times at their bedside. Animal-assisted therapy has been proven to help reduce stress and distract children from pain and medical procedures.
“Ruby’s calm, nurturing presence has visible impacts on patients,” said Tamaye. “We can enter a room in which a patient is in pain, anxious, or just having a rough day and all of that is melted away with each pet of her coat.”
Ruby is happy to come to work each day and especially loves snuggling up in bed with patients and visiting the Brain Station classroom used for educational programs offered by Child Life Services. Patients describe feeling relaxed after interacting with Ruby and express their gratitude for Ruby both verbally and with thank you cards. Additionally, Ruby plays a huge role in caregiver support, and also provides moments of respite for health care workers who enjoy visiting and petting her.
Ruby is continuing the legacy of Kapiolani’s original Hospital Facility Dog, Tucker, who served as Kapiolani’s Chief Canine Officer for nine years before his passing in 2016. She joins Nani, who provides support for adult patients at Kapiolani’s Women’s Center and Women’s Cancer Center, as part of Kapiolani’s current Hospital Facility Dog team.
KMCWC funds raised for the Hospital Facility Dog Program will be used to support a wide variety of therapeutic benefits for hospital patients. In addition, funds will be used to supplement the facility dog handler’s salary and supplies for the Hospital Facility Dog Program. Assistance Dogs of Hawaii is a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs to assist children and adults with disabilities and other special needs, and facility dogs to assist children in courthouses and patients in hospitals.