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Helping Paws

Meet the therapy dogs of Boston Children’s Hospital

Healing help from four-legged friends is just what the doctor ordered.

Meet the therapy dogs of Boston Children’s Hospital Boston Children’s Hospital


Bio: She’s as sweet as syrup — Maple, that is. The 5-year-old female cockapoo volunteers at Boston Children’s at Waltham in the acute treatment and short-term inpatient units, where she enjoys doing tricks and fetching balls for patients. When needed, Maple attends infusion clinics, and, once a month, listens as patients read books to her.

Fun fact: Maple loves belly rubs, long walks, squeaky toys, and hugs.

Special memory: Maple understands when someone needs extra attention. Whenever Maple is able to make a patient happy, she has done her job.

From her handler: “I love doing this. I get so much satisfaction out of it,” says Ralph Sillari of Lexington. “I would stop doing it if Maple wasn’t enthusiastic, but I can’t see that happening based on how much enjoyment she’s had.”


> Related: For more on Boston Children’s 150th anniversary, click here.

> Meet some of the other therapy dogs that visit Boston Children’s in videos on the hospital website.


Bio: Named after the legendary Star Wars Jedi master, this 3-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel is the youngest pup in Pawprints, Boston Children’s Hospital’s animal assisted visitation program. Obi-Wan Kenobi — Obi, for short — volunteers alongside his handler, Laura Biermann, in a variety of units: neurology, intensive care, and transitional care. When Biermann outfits Obi with his red vest, he knows it’s time to get to work. Obi does anything his handler asks, from snuggles with patients on hospital beds, to paw-fives (Obi’s version of a high-five), to his exuberant happy dance.

Fun fact: When Obi is not volunteering, he enjoys going on hikes near his home in North Andover, getting scratches behind his ears, and playing with his favorite toy lobster.

Special memory: Parties celebrating the last day of chemotherapy for patients.

From his handler: “Obi has never had a bad day in his life,” says Biermann, who lives in North Andover. “He is very happy, very easygoing, and up for anything.”


Obi, another therapy dog at Boston Children’s. Boston Children’s Hospital


Bio: Find Duncan — a very happy 6-year-old golden retriever who loves interacting with people, especially children — working his magic on the oncology and pediatric transplant units. Duncan is a celebrity at the hospital, his handler says. As soon as he walks in, patients, staff, and relatives of patients call his name. He loves giving paw-shakes.

Fun fact: A true retriever, Duncan enjoys chasing after balls, chewing sticks, and running around in his front yard in Burlington. During the summer, he likes to cool down at a nearby pond.

Special memory: Duncan once calmed a young girl who was very anxious about getting a transplant. He jumped up on the bed and cuddled up next to her. The child immediately smiled and seemed to forget all about her surgery.

From his handler: “I feel very blessed to be a part of the program,” says his owner Paul Pierce. “We are brought into the inner sanctuary of these children’s lives.”

Duncan is a very happy golden retriever who is quickly recognized in the hospital. Boston Children’s Hospital


Bio: Weighing in at 105 pounds, Neba — Russian for sky or heaven — volunteers at the hospital’s outpatient facility in Peabody. The big and fluffy 9-year-old briard has a mellow temperament, and spends most of his time comforting patients and their families in the waiting rooms.

Fun fact: Before Neba was a therapy dog, he was a show dog who went by the name Champion Eiledon’s Faustus.

Special memory: One afternoon, Neba approached a young girl who was coloring at a table. The girl was delighted and proceeded to color while talking to him — as if he were an old friend. The mother went on to share with Neba’s handler that her daughter had been diagnosed with brain cancer. For 15 minutes, Neba sat alongside the girl, and together, they shared a moment of normalcy.


From his handler: “I am indeed privileged to be part of Pawprints, but really, it has nothing to do with me,” says Lynne Minichiello of Middleton. “As I often say, Neba is the show, I am merely the transportation.”

Before becoming a therapy dog, Neba was a show dog. Boston Children’s Hospital