MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — A new therapy dog will arrive at Madison Hospital next spring, thanks to the efforts of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation’s Canines for Coping (CFC) program.

The program began in 2019 and is donor-funded. The roster currently includes three professionally trained dogs — Asteroid, Orbit, and Shaggy — all working at Huntsville Hospital and Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children.

The new dog, secured from Service Dogs Alabama, will arrive in spring 2023.

“Adding a facility dog to the Madison Hospital team is a huge benefit for everyone who wants through our hospital doors,” said Mary Lynne Wright, the president of Madison Hospital. “This dog will not only bring joy and comfort to patients, but also to our health care heroes.”

According to the foundation, the three dogs already working at the hospital are “full-time employees” and work 40 hours per week alongside their handlers — with time allowed for naps, walks, and breaks.

Asteroid, Orbit, and Shaggy are all equipped to “provide services based on medical goals, can be present during procedures, and can assist with bereavement.”

Stefani Williams, the Canines for Coping coordinator at the hospital, says the new dog will also be a “full-time employee” able to work with patients of all ages.

“We especially anticipate this dog being a great service for youth who are seeking care for mental health needs and our adult patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Williams explained.

The foundation says the new addition to the program comes thanks to Sheryl and Pat Thomason, a Madison couple whose son unexpectedly died earlier this year. The gift, and therefore, the new dog, is in memory of him.

The Thomasons say they chose the foundation because their son, Patrick, loved dogs.

“Just knowing how a facility dog can brighten the day and bring joy for everybody it comes into contact with is a very exciting opportunity,” said Pat Thomason. “We know Patrick would love this and would support this 100 percent.”

Ongoing expenses for the program rely on community donations and the hospital’s employee giving program. Learn more about the Canines for Coping program here.