Pets of Larchmont: Therapy dogs lead the pack in Children’s Hospital program

| July 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

KATE BUHRMASTER and Wrigley on S. Windsor Blvd.

Wrigley takes his job as a therapy dog at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) “very seriously,” says his owner, Kate Buhrmaster.

The eight-year-old Bernese mountain dog is among 127 “volunteer” dogs in the therapy program at CHLA.

“He’s visited with — and hopefully helped lift the spirits of — thousands of people over the past six-plus years, and currently does virtual visits,” said Buhrmaster, a S. Windsor Blvd. resident and head of the program at CHLA.

Before the pandemic, the four-footed, furry therapists trotted from room to room, drawing smiles and sharing cuddles along the way. These days the dogs get belly rubs and share comfort and joy via computer screens.

“Even though they’re not here, I can still see them, and do everything I was able to do except for pet them,” says an 11-year-old girl on a video call with one of the dogs from her hospital bed.

She, along with other children, parents and the dogs —mutts and breeds alike — can be seen in an episode about the dog therapy program which recently aired on “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt: Kids Edition.”

“The dog therapy program is invaluable …. It just really lightens up his days,” says a parent of a four-year-old boy fighting cancer.

“It’s not quite the same” as in-person visits, Buhrmaster notes on the show. “The one thing you’re missing is petting,” she agrees. “But all the other benefits — the companionship, the support, the relaxation that comes from seeing the happy, adorable face on the other side of the call, that is all still possible.”

TRADING cards are a popular feature of the program.

The dogs are so popular that their affectionate, furry faces are featured on trading cards that are collected by the children.

The dogs seem to intuitively know to be gentle and give the children what they need, Buhrmaster said. They are also well prepared before joining the program, have obedience training and take a test before they are accepted.

A onetime rescue dog, Wrigley, 8, was something of a C student initially. “We had to take our time” with the training, recalls Buhrmaster. But now he eagerly wears his uniform — a purple scarf and ID badge — before going to “work.”

His pack mate on S. Windsor, Kacey, also a Bernese mountain dog, is still learning the ropes. “She’s a superhero with the infant humans in our house, though … who love her to pieces,” says Buhrmaster.

Watch the May 19 NBC TV episode at (The dog therapy program starts at about the 3:15 mark.) For information visit

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Category: People

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