Therapy dog impacts lives through social media

One of the most popular employees at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children has expanded his therapy reach thanks to the power of social media.

Tucker Hirsch is the hospital’s Chief Canine Officer. The eight-year-old golden retriever is not only the hospital’s golden boy, he and his handler, Dr. Wendi Hirsch, who is a clinical child psychologist, are co-therapists working with hospitalized keiki.

“Tucker is here full-time. He is our full-time hospital facility dog,” Dr. Hirsch said. “He helps kids, snuggles with them, and waits with them while they are getting chemotherapy. He gives them love and comfort in a way that nobody else can.”

Related Links: Tucker the Service Dog on Facebook | Instagram

After seven years on property, he’s made quite an impact on thousands of patients and families.

“People will tell me years later that that was such a memorable time when they were in the hospital that made them happy and sort of turned their hospitalization around,” Dr. Hirsch said.

So, Dr. Hirsch decided to further Tucker’s reach by going online.

“On a Saturday morning, I created his Facebook page thinking that would be an easier way for kids and families to keep in touch with Tucker, and then it just blew up because people love to see Tucker,” she said.

After a few years on Facebook, Tucker has close to 2,700 friends.

“It’s created a relationship that’s more ongoing for Tucker and these families,” Dr. Hirsch said. “I get messages from people in South America, England, Germany, all over.”

Tucker is now so social-media-savvy, he even has his own Instagram account.

“That was (thanks to) some of our teenagers,” Dr. Hirsch said. “I was saying, ‘Here’s Tuckers Facebook page,’ and they said, ‘We like Instagram better,’ so I said okay, that sounds easy enough to do.”

Dr. Hirsch says taking a moment to update Tucker’s social media pages doesn’t take away from the focus of giving back to the patients — it actually enhances it.

“Because this is a children’s hospital, people can’t always come in and get a window into these children’s lives, but what they can do is watch him on Facebook and Instagram and see what he is doing and see the impact for themselves,” she said.

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