Diane Bratt knows her beautiful goldendoodle Sophie is a diamond in the “ruff.” She’s one of those amazing dogs with just the right temperament to be a member of Akron Children’s Hospital’s Doggie Brigade.
After teaching for 35 years, including several years working with special needs kids for Akron Public Schools, Bratt knows something about how to reach kids. In fact, she often would let her dogs come to school with her and work with the kids.
“Bringing a dog to school to work with kids with severe behavior issues is the best way to increase attendance in the classroom,” said Bratt, of Tallmadge. “Dogs make a difference.”
Now retired from her teaching career, Bratt continues to find ways to impact kids and their families as a volunteer.
“Sometimes I don’t know who we are here for most – the kids, the parents or the staff,” said Bratt. “The Doggie Brigade brings so much joy to everyone at the hospital.”
Bratt schedules her visits every other Thursday and tries to visit several areas of the hospital during each trip. One of her favorite places to spread doggie cheer is in the phase 2 outpatient surgery recovery area.
“Many of the parents have been up since the early hours of the morning and at the hospital all day long, and the kids are still groggy after receiving anesthesia,” said Bratt. “A visit from Sophie is a great booster-upper for their moods. It really seems to help them all get over that last hurdle before they head home.”
Over the past 5 years of volunteering for the Doggie Brigade, she and Sophie have met countless families and staff members. Once while roaming the halls of the hospital, she happened to run into another Doggie Brigade team with a goldendoodle.
After talking about the many merits of the goldendoodle breed, Diane Bratt and the other handler, Chris Cipa, discovered both of their goldendoodles were named Sophie.
Delving deeper into the dogs’ family trees, it soon became apparent that the 2 Sophies were sisters, despite a 25-lb. weight difference.
“One of the kids the other day called his visit with Sophie ‘therapy,’ and the dogs really are their own form of therapy,” said Bratt. “Being able to participate in the Doggie Brigade is such a joy for both me and Sophie.”
If you think your dog has the right stuff to warm the hearts of our staff and patients, consider attending an informational meeting about the Doggie Brigade from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 26. Call Volunteer Services at 330-543-8424 to reserve a seat.
Those accepted into the program must attend a Pet Partner Workshop from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 1.
Teams will then be asked to do a 20-minute evaluation — the only times dogs are expected to attend.
Handlers who wish to proceed with qualifying as team members, may sign up for times for the workshop and evaluation session and provide a check for $50 to cover the cost of the workshop and the manual.