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Olaf the facility dog helps ease anxiety at COVID-19 vaccine clinics

While he’s usually visiting patients on campus at Mary Bridge Children’s, Olaf’s work occasionally extends into the community.

By Kalyn Kinomoto

As a beloved member of the Child Life Services team at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, 5-year-old facility dog Olaf plays an important role in helping patients cope, understand and process medical procedures and diagnoses.

While he’s usually visiting patients on campus at Mary Bridge Children’s, Olaf’s work occasionally extends into the community.

Recently he provided support and comfort at a Mary Bridge Children’s pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic along with his handler, certified Child Life specialist Kristen Bishop, and Child Life intern Kendall Baker.

Olaf Covid

“It’s not uncommon for Olaf to help patients who are scared of needles and pokes,” Bishop says. “Seeing him is a great distraction for patients and often when he rests his head on their laps, they quickly calm down. It’s a win-win because not only are we supporting patients and the community, but also Olaf gets a bunch of extra pets and belly rubs!”

Olaf knows more than 40 commands and tricks, which are used in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He came to Mary Bridge Children’s in 2019 from Canine Companions, a national nonprofit organization that breeds and trains service dogs at no cost to recipients. Olaf’s presence helps providers do their best work to help patients heal and reach their treatment goals.

“We recognize that getting shots is not a fun experience and can be traumatic for many,” says Sheri Mitchell, RN, BSN, community outreach manager for MultiCare's Center for Health Equity and Wellness. “Having Kristen, Kendall and Olaf’s support at these clinics really makes a difference and creates a calming environment for those who would otherwise be quite anxious. It’s incredible that a dog is helping us slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.”

Learn more about Olaf and the “paw-sitive” impact he has on our patients and staff. Child Life Services at Mary Bridge Children’s is a donor-supported program that provides services to families free of charge.

MultiCare’s pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinics are offered in multiple locations around the South Sound and are free and open to the public. Most clinics offer the COVID-19 vaccine for all eligible, including pediatric doses for children between 5-11 years old and boosters for those 16 and older. Visit MultiCare’s COVID-19 resource center to find a pop-up location near you.

Mary Bridge Children’s and the MultiCare Center for Health Equity and Wellness are grateful to our donors who support our community-based vaccine clinics. Special thanks to the Ben B. Cheney Foundation, Gary E. Milgard Family Foundations, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, L.T. Murray Family Foundation and the Foundations of MultiCare for providing the initial funding to launch these pop-up clinics.