• Willie Nelson is an 11-year-old therapy pony from Doggie Brigade.
  • Willie recently made his first visit to the Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio.
  • Pediatric patients, as well as the hospital staff and guests, were delighted to see furry friends like Willie bringing joy and healing.

Willie Nelson, a therapy pony, made his debut at the Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, bringing so much joy and comfort to sick kids as well as their worried families.

Photo Credit: Ted Stevens/Akron Children’s Hospital

Willie is an 11-year-old miniature pony raised and trained by Doggie Brigade, a volunteer organization of therapy pups and other two- and four-legged animals, who serve as cheerful therapy helpers for pediatric patients.

Since 2018, Willie and Murphy, a standard Schnauzer and Tyrus (a soft-coated Wheaten terrier), have been in therapy service. However, it took Willie 400 days to finally go back to service, and volunteers and patients were delighted alike!

Photo Credit: Ted Stevens/Akron Children’s Hospital

Whitney Romine, Doggie Brigade volunteer office coordinator and adviser, cannot emphasize anymore the joy Willie brought to so many kids at the hospital.

“On the day that we brought Willie back, I took him to the transitional care floor. We had arranged for the children to come up to their doors so Willie could safely visit as many kids as possible,” she said. “I looked around me and noticed the staff coming to visit, too. It was almost like I had turned around and the whole floor was full of people who came to see Willie.”

Photo Credit: Ted Stevens/Akron Children’s Hospital

Animal-assisted therapy studies show how children in hospitals benefit largely from interaction with animals such as dogs, horses, and cats, in reducing anxiety, stress, and even pain.

Studies also suggest that therapy animals have the ability to help people connect and feel safe, even at their most vulnerable state.

Children are not the only ones who get a happiness boost. Whitney shared that she often hears staff respond, “Thank you, I really needed this” after a therapy animal visit.

Photo Credit: Ted Stevens/Akron Children’s Hospital

“When the staff sees Willie or members of the Doggie Brigade, it’s like a weight is lifted—you can truly feel them relax,” she added.

Indeed, Willie and the other therapy dogs from the Doggie Brigade did a great job, and this is just the beginning!

Via Daily Paws