Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and Mars Petcare Introduce Hospital’s Full-Time Facility Dog

New Four-Legged Staff Member Provides Comfort to Patients During Critical Time of Need

NASHVILLE (Aug. 13, 2020) – It’s no secret that pets make our lives happier and healthier, especially in these times of uncertainty. For many families, the benefits pets provide will now come at a time and place they may never have expected: during their child’s hospital stay in the middle of a pandemic.

In February 2020, Squid, a Canine Companions for Independence® (Canine Companions) facility dog, joined the Patient- and Family-Centered Care team at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. He arrived shortly before COVID-19 impacted the local community.

With visitors to the hospital limited due to social distancing health safety measures, Squid arrived on the job just in time to engage with patients and staff through this stressful time of unknowns.

As a Canine Companions certified facility dog, Squid, a 2-year-old black Labrador/Golden Retriever cross, has undergone extensive and highly specialized training for the last two years. Squid can perform more than 40 commands designed to motivate and inspire patients to obtain treatment goals. In addition to engaging patients in their treatment, the dog provides comfort and affection to support families and hospital staff experiencing the impact of intense medical situations.

The Facility Dog Program at Children’s Hospital was established through collaboration with Mars Petcare to support a full-time facility dog and a staff position for coordination of the program, with the overall goal of showing the positive impact a facility dog can have on patients, families and staff.

Squid assists handlers Leslie Grissim, MA, CCLS, facility dog coordinator, and Erin Munn, child life specialist 3, during their work with patients.

“This has been three years in the making,” said Janet Cross, MEd, CCLS, CPXP, administrative director, Patient- and Family-Centered Care at Children’s Hospital. “We have been keeping our fingers on the pulse of what is new and innovative that can be used to engage people in healing. Facility dogs fit that bill for our hospital. There has been a lot of evidence around the effectiveness of facility dogs in the medical setting.”

“We have a well-established pet partner program and seeing how successful those teams are at engaging our patients and families … a facility dog will take that engagement to a higher level. Squid was bred for this kind of work.”

“Now more than ever, people are turning to pets for comfort and companionship, and we can’t wait to see the positive impact Squid has for the children, families, and staff at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt,” said Mark Johnson, President of Mars Petcare North America. “We’re thrilled to partner with the team at Vanderbilt to bring this facility dog program to life.”

Through its BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™  program, Mars Petcare is dedicated to bringing the healing power of pets to more children and families. Together with Mars Petcare, Children’s Hospital will work to harness the power of pets to improve the health of patients.

About Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is one of the nation’s leading children’s hospitals, treating and helping to prevent a full range of pediatric health issues from colds and broken bones to complex heart diseases and cancer. Achieving 10 out of 10 nationally ranked pediatric specialties in 2020, Children’s Hospital was again named among the nation’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” for the 14th consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, a nonprofit organization, opened in 2004, expanded its physical space in 2012, and recently added four new floors encompassing 160,000 total sq. ft. The new expansion helps to advance the size and scope of the hospital’s mission. For more about Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt:

About Mars Petcare

Part of Mars, Incorporated, a family-owned business with more than a century of history making diverse products and offering services for people and the pets people love, the 85,000 Associates across 50+ countries in Mars Petcare are dedicated to one purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. With 85 years of experience, our portfolio of almost 50 brands serves the health and nutrition needs of the world’s pets – including brands PEDIGREE®,  WHISKAS®, ROYAL CANIN®,  NUTRO™,  GREENIES™,  SHEBA®,  CESAR®,  IAMS™ and EUKANUBA™ as well as the WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute which has advanced research in the nutrition and health of pets for over 50 years. Mars Petcare is also a leading veterinary health provider through an international network of over 2,000 pet hospitals and diagnostic services including BANFIELD™,  BLUEPEARL™,  VCA™, Linnaeus, AniCura and Antech. We’re also active in innovation and technology for pets, with WISDOM PANEL™ genetic health screening and DNA testing for dogs, the WHISTLE™ GPS dog tracker, and LEAP VENTURE STUDIO accelerator and COMPANION FUND™ programs that drive innovation and disruption in the pet care industry. As a family business and guided by our principles, we are privileged with the flexibility to fight for what we believe in – and we choose to fight for: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS.

About Canine Companions for Independence

Canine Companions for Independence® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that provides expertly trained assistance dogs to children, adults and veterans with disabilities at no charge. Established in 1975, Canine Companions has six regional training centers across the country and is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people. For more information, visit or call 1-800-572-BARK.

Photo: Squid, facility dog at Children’s Hospital, poses for a photo on August 6, 2020. Photo by Donn Jones/Vanderbilt Medical Center

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