When the Going Gets ‘Ruff’, Kids Find Comfort From a Four-Legged League of Heroes

In honor of National Dog Day, On the Pulse is recognizing three unique four-legged visitors who bring joy to kids at Seattle Children’s.

When a child is in need of some cheering up during a hospital stay, Seattle Children’s knows just the right MVP for the task – Most Valuable Pup that is. With their wiggling tails, wet noses and oozing charm, each of the nine volunteer therapy dogs in Seattle Children’s Animal-Assisted Activities Program harnesses their unique strengths and abilities to bring a smile to every patient they meet.

Morgan and therapy dog Ceili share a special moment together.

Some like to cuddle, while others proudly perform special tricks as patients watch happily from their beds.

While 18-year-old Morgan Koch had a 40-day stay at Seattle Children’s this past June, she received visits from several of the therapy dogs, each providing their own special spirit and energy that helped her overcome the sadness she felt.

“While I was in the hospital, I missed my senior prom and high school graduation,” said Morgan. “I felt sad and depressed, but each therapy dog visit I received gave me a sense of hope.”

Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 10 years old, Morgan has been in and out of Seattle Children’s for the past several years.

“Before I got sick, I was really active – I loved going outdoors and swimming,” said Morgan. “Because of my condition, I lost a lot of my energy and wasn’t able to do those things anymore. My interests shifted towards things like reading, writing, sketching and painting.”

Morgan and her therapy dog portrait she painted as soon as arrived home from the hospital.

When Morgan was well enough to go home from her recent hospital stay, she was inspired to paint a portrait of the furry friends who provided her with the strength she needed during one of the most difficult times in her life.

“As soon as I arrived home, I knew I wanted to do a painting of the therapy dogs who visited me at the hospital,” said Morgan. “I wanted to express my appreciation for the love and care they provided me.”

With the different sizes, shapes and fur colors of each dog, Morgan tried to capture every little detail to a tee to bring to life their individual personalities and showcase how each dog gave her the joy and energy she needed to bounce back from the challenging experience she faced.

Meet a few of Seattle Children’s MVPs

From agility champions to ballerina dancers, Seattle Children’s all-star league of therapy dogs brings their A-game to winning the hearts of patients like Morgan. Here’s an introduction to some of our special canine pals.

Lee Roy

Age: 12 years old
Breed: Miniature Dachshund
Time volunteering at Seattle Children’s: 10 years

Fun facts: Lee Roy’s signature tricks include standing like a dinosaur, hopping like a bunny and dancing like a ballerina. He’s also an expert ‘high-fiver’ – or in his case, a ‘high-eighter.’ For many years, Lee Roy has also worked as a therapy dog through Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) where he provides comfort to children going through separation or divorce. He and Gordon have worked on over 20 CASA cases, more than any other therapy dog volunteer team in the nation. Lee Roy is also considered a bit of a fashionista with his festive attire for special occasions.


Age: 7 years old
Breed: Golden Retriever
Time volunteering at Seattle Children’s: 4 years

Fun facts: Barkley has won a total of nine titles in agility and obedience competitions. He keeps his healthy physique through his love of apples. Barkley also regularly visits Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as a volunteer therapy dog giving comfort and relief to stressed-out travelers.



Age: 7 years old
Breed: West Highland Terrier
Time volunteering at Seattle Children’s: 5 years

Fun Facts: Ceili’s owner Brenda describes her as being a ‘very chill dog,’ with the exception of when her terrier instincts kick in and she’s on squirrel patrol. Often times, Ceili isn’t the only special visitor at the hospital. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for the volunteers dressed up as Stars Wars characters to take a minute to pose for a fun photo with their favorite four-legged Jedi.