NorthStar VETS Helps Dog Serve at Childrens Hospital

(From left to right) Dr. Steven Berkowitz, Dr. Daniel Stobie, Tom Meli of Mickey's Kids, Michele Meli of Mickey's Kids, Burton of CSH, Katie Ahlers of CSH

(From left to right) Dr. Steven Berkowitz, Dr. Daniel Stobie, Tom Meli of Mickey’s Kids, Michele Meli of Mickey’s Kids, Burton of CSH, Katie Ahlers of CSH

On Thursday, November 16, Children’s Specialized Hospital (CSH) in New Brunswick, a RWJBarnabas Health facility, became the only children’s hospital in New Jersey with a facility therapy dog on staff. They hosted an official welcome party for Burton, a 20-month-old golden retriever who will be a full-time employee of CHS. Burton will work with his owner/handler Katie Ahlers, Senior Recreational Therapist at CSH, in different departments within the hospital to provide special “dog-therapy” to patients and staff members alike.

HospitalEmpirical and anecdotal evidence indicates that dogs can have a profoundly positive impact on patients and their families as well as hospital personnel. Petting dogs promotes the production of mood-enhancing hormones such as serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. Interactions with dogs have also been shown to have a regulatory effect on blood pressure, lower respiration rates, as well as reducing the amount of pain medication patients required to achieve comfort. Dogs have also been shown to increase physical and mental stimulation and motivation.

Berkowitz and Nurse PractitionerBurton was born and trained at the Canine Assistants training facility in Georgia. Canine Assistants is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education and empowerment of man and dog so they may enhance the lives of one another. Canine Assistants does not charge for the services they provide but rather rely on the generosity of those who understand that aiding the well-being of one benefits us all.

KidsThe funding for Burton was provided by Mickey’s Kids Charitable Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money for dogs from Canine Assistants, in hopes to get as many service/therapy dogs into the NY/Metro area as possible. Berkowitz and Stobie2In addition to the funding for Burton, Mickey’s Kids has partnered with NorthStar VETS to cover all costs for vet services for Burton for the rest of his life. Dr. Steven Berkowitz, of our Emergency and Critical Care department, is Burton’s official veterinarian.

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Steven Berkowitz, DVMSteven Berkowitz, DVM
Dr. Steven Berkowitz attended St. Georges University and did his clinical year at the University of Illinois. Berkowitz joined NorthStar VETS after serving as the Chief of Emergency and Critical Care at another specialty hospital. Prior to that, he completed a three-year residency in Emergency and Critical Care medicine at the Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, NJ. His residency was completed at one of only a few recognized veterinary trauma centers in the United States. Prior to his residency, he was a staff Emergency Veterinarian at Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers, NY as well as serving as an emergency doctor at Animal Emergency and Referral Associates in Fairfield, NJ for 3 years. Dr. Berkowitz can be seen on seasons 5 and 6 of “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet, which was filmed during his internship at The Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital of the ASPCA in New York City.
Dr. Berkowitz has special interest in the management of metabolic and endocrine derangements, trauma, as well as management of the septic patient.

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2 Responses to NorthStar VETS Helps Dog Serve at Childrens Hospital

  1. Claire says:

    What a beautiful gift to patients and staff. As an OR Nurse for 46 years, I must admit that myself and other staff members also took a time out to pet the therapy dogs when our days got stressful. We made sure to plan our breaks and or lunch when we knew the dogs would visit. In addition, if a therapy dog came to the preoperative area with its owner, it gave us an extra perk and pick up for the day. Continue your good work.

  2. Joyce Kirby says:

    I am happy to see that the hospitals are realizing the benefits of having therapy dogs in the facilities. I hope there are more to follow.

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