Vida is a mum to a 7-year-old girl Julia with a Down syndrome, who is regularly visited by Monika and her dog Bella in the primary school Idrija, a subsidiary school for children and the youth with special needs in Idrija. Every time Bella's visit is over, the girl utters these two words: 'Bula, bula'. According to her mum, this translates to the greatest possible reflection of love- it is something that she says only to her mummy and daddy.

The mum wrote a short, yet meaningful letter to Monika after having read the articles and seeing the videos of members of the PET Institute on Pediatric Clinic:

Dear Monika,

We've received the links to the articles published of your work and we saw the broadcast on the television. As a mom of a child who suffers from epilepsy and spends a good amount of time at the Department of Infectious Diseases, alongside having experiences from your visits at her primary school, I would like to express my thanks and congratulations for your work. I hope you get to brighten the day of many more children.

Best wishes to you and Bella,

Vida M. Peternel



A day when a dog comes to visit a child who has been in hospital for a longer time, is a day that is filled with joyful expectation. It is refreshing to see a dog in the hospital, as it reminds you of your domestic environment. Even the thought of meeting a furry pooch evokes a plethora of positive memories of dogs and experiences with them- in many families a furry friend is also a family member! So already the thought of a pooch coming for a visit brings about so many positive emotions which are so beneficial to a child's health and healing process. They present a great help also to the medical staff who during to treatment process wish nothing more but for child's cooperation. Here it is not only the direct impact of the dog on the child's psychological well-being, but the children gain through such visits some confidence and even proximity to the medical staff, as a close encounter with a dog evokes special feelings also in doctors and nurses, which would in their working environment otherwise not be expressed. Through such experience a child can get rid of the fear of the white robe or the blue uniform as it gets to experience the doctor or the nurse from a different perspective.

The children soften up in the vicinity of a dog. They forget the fear of treatments. The experience a lot of positive emotions and joy- it is simply so that a pooch brings pure happiness to children!

Valda Janjanin, pre-school education at the Department of Paediatric Surgery and Intensive Care





Wednesday at 5 pm. All the children at the Child Psychiatry Unit know what that means: it’s the time when the furry and tail-wagging friends come along with their cheerful handlers. They arrive on the dot. Always with a carefully prepared programme, they ensure that each visit is an experience for our kids and a really special learning.

Everyone who has been following the effects of these visits of dogs at the Unit is delighted and grateful to their handlers for their help, support and comfort that they give to our patients. Just how important these visits are to the children patients is seen from the fact that on Wednesdays mums and dads often have to wait and give up their planned walks outside, as the children put the visit of ‘their’ dog first. Skilled, warm-hearted handlers and excellently trained dogs add a considerably important part to our therapeutic work to the children and we would like to see this continue well into the future.

Marta Marenče, spec. pedagogy educator at the Child Psychiatry Unit, Paediatric Clinic Ljubljana


(due to the protection of personal data only the initials are stated)

On the 13th March 2012, it was a Tuesday, the work therapists invited me to join a therapy with a dog called Žana. I was delighted, for dog has always been my favourite animal. When I came I was really surprised to see what all she can do. She’s a very kind and beautiful dog. I’m sure she needed a lot of training to learn all these tricks. I’d love to have a dog like that at home ;) I can’t wait for our next encounter- I hope I’ll still be here at Soča then!


BR:) R.R.


The handler of the therapy dog Žana, Nani Gerdina, adds some words of her own: We met with R. R. after having completed an AAT together with two smaller girls. AT the end R. R. joined us,, a true dog lover. We talked a lot and her gaze kept wandering to my little poodle. Her hand stroked the soft hair. She couldn’t part with Žana and offered to accompany us outside the Soča premises. I gave her the leash and she was able to guide the dog with ease, as the way out was familiar. The first stop was on the lawn where I explained to R. R. that Žana needs to relieve herself. R. R. couldn’t let Žana go, she kept asking questions about her and asked for some pictures. We exchanged emails and I promised to send her a few. She walked us to the next door and there we said goodbye. Me and Žana went home, while R. R. returned to Soča premises where she is currently receiving treatment. I hope to meet the girl again, although I’d prefer to meet her at her school rather than in the hospital.

 Nani Gerdina


Clinic of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology has been getting visits form dogs, trained for noble purposes since February 2008. Children are extremely happy about these visits. Contact with dogs influences the child on multiple layers. At least for a few moments they can forget the loneliness, sadness, worries anger and also pain. Even a gentle touch can soothe, relax and evoke a smile. For a child treated in hospital this experience of stroking a dog, holding something warm, soft and alive in its lap is a priceless experience. I remember a girl with an operated leg and that look on her face when we got a visit with trained dogs. In that moment when a big golden retriever came to her bed her face lit up despite the pain she was experiencing. That dog truly brought her a feeling of complete happiness. Naturally, for some children not used to the dogs this can seem a bit daunting experience. They are afraid that the dog might bite them, or they have prejudice against dogs. In such cases it is the dog’s handler who knows how to bring the dog closer to the child step by step. The children slowly get rid of the excessive fear of the dogs, which otherwise prevents them from getting to know them better, to observe them and truly feel them. The whole point of the so called therapy with animals is to create a mutual relationship between the man and animal and their emotional connection. Our emotions, mood and feelings are greatly connected with our physical well-being. The dog can be an assistant therapist through which we impact their emotions and indirectly affect their health. At our clinic we often see that the toddlers and even older children wish for a pet, usually a dog or a cat. This wish is so strong that the parents often fulfil it. It is not customary in our Clinic for children to bring their pets along. But I remember once, how incredibly happy it was and how much strength one girl has accumulated, when during her long term hospitalization, at the entrance to out department she saw her favourite animal- a horse- for her birthday. I’ve been noticing that the visits of the dogs and their carers-handlers positively influence the mood of the sick children and adolescents, together with their parents and notwithstanding the health personnel as well. Also I have, as an employee at the department, incredibly developed my own attitude toward the animals, especially towards the dogs. I truly and sincerely hope that the handlers – volunteers from the PET Institute will keep coming back with their professional, selfless and noble work in the future.


Martina Bürger Lazar, BSc in Psychology
Assistant MA Spec. in Clinical Psychology

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