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Jabs Less Foreboding, Thanks to Four Paws
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Lisa-Marie Allen’s pet therapy dog Gilly seemed to relish one of her first jobs—that of cheering on 5- to 11-year-olds getting COVID vaccines.
   
Monday, November 22, 2021
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY LINDA PETERSON

Some of the first children in the Wood River Valley to get COVID vaccines didn’t go through the experience alone.

The children, ages 5 to 11, had the help of three four-paw cheerleaders as they lined up for their first dose of the kid-sized Pfizer COVID vaccine on Saturday at St. Luke’s Medical Clinic in Hailey.

 
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Bella, Linda Peterson’s pet therapy dog, holds the hand of a youngster getting her vaccine.
 

The pups could commiserate. After all, they’ve gotten their fair share of shots for rabies and other things.

The pet therapy dogs showed no fear as health care providers waved their shiny needles in the air. And,  somehow, that seemed to give the youngsters a measure of confidence, too.

Bella, Linda Peterson’s yellow lab, was at the clinic at 8 a.m., stamping each kid’s hand with a pawprint. Then Peterson handed out Pokeman-like cards with Bella’s photo and biographical information to the youngsters.

St. Luke’s providers gave away stuffed animals and suckers to the youngsters, and the nurses applied kid’s Band-aids to the poke site.

 
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Youngsters played with the dogs as they awaited their shots.
 

Billy, a cream-colored golden retriever, and Gilly, another golden retriever followed up Bella’s shift. The dogs, who belonged to Kelly Bird and Lisa Marie-Allen, were newbies at pet therapy, having just been certified as pet therapy dogs this summer. They performed calmly, seemingly cognizant of the extra special little lives that had been entrusted to them.

“It was so fun,” said Peterson. “Everything was so upbeat. Maybe a few jabs hurt a little, but I didn’t see any tears and many of the kids said it didn’t hurt at all.”

Elsewhere in Idaho providers have used candy, music, games, even vibrating ladybugs to detract children from the injection going in.  But the dogs seemed perfect for a valley that dotes on its four-legged companions.

“Seeing the transformation the kids made from fear to ease and even laughter with the therapy dogs was very heartwarming,” said Lisa-Marie Allen.

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