Edinburg Children’s Hospital welcomed its newest hospital volunteers in October. In return for their service, these volunteers ask for nothing more than a handshake when they can get one; otherwise, a pat on the back or a healthy snack will do.

“I’ve met some extraordinary volunteers in my 14-years managing volunteers at South Texas Health System; however, I’ve never seen anything like these two,” said Joel Pena, director of volunteers at South Texas Health System.

Cameo, a fun-loving miniature schnauzer and Tinker, a spirited miniature dachshund have been enthusiastically received by patients, parents and staff during their weekly rounds at Edinburg Children’s Hospital. As members of Wonderful Animals Giving Support, otherwise known as WAGS, they spread happiness to patients at Edinburg Children’s Hospital with every visit.

Their owners, Tracy Hulstine and Rebecca Cade bring the two canine volunteers every other week to help improve the quality of life for patients at Edinburg Children’s Hospital.

Cameo and Tinker are specially trained to interact with patients in the hospital setting. During their “meet and greet” visits, patients are encouraged to pet them and because they are small enough, hold them in their arms.

Research shows that pet therapy helps to reduce the patient’s blood pressure, ease anxiety and stress levels and stimulate the release of endorphins which help the children feel good.

“Cameo and Tinker help me make sure our patients have a positive emotional experience during their hospitalization,” says Katie Tribbett, Child Life Specialist at Edinburg Children’s Hospital. “They also help add some fun to a child’s hospital stay.”

WAGS is a non-profit organization created to offer animal assisted activities (AAT) and animal assisted therapy (AAT) services in the Rio Grande Valley. To volunteer or become a sponsor, call 956-458-7376.