They say every dog has his day but only two dogs can say they’ve been Lakers for a Day. Harlow, a Golden Retriever/Lab mix, and Pierre, a French Bull Dog, received the honor in recognition of the UCLA People-Animal Connection (PAC). This program involves more than 60 dogs who, supervised by their human partners, bring warmth, companionship and the occasional lick to children and adults receiving care at UCLA.
One of the most comprehensive Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activity programs in the nation, PAC has provided more than 120,000 in-patient visits since its inception in 1994. The highly trained and screened dogs – and one miniature horse – have a special way of bonding with patients of all ages, cultures and socioeconomic levels. They “help transport our patients and families away from a state of illness and anxiety to a place of feeling happy and engaged,” says Erin Rice, director of the PAC program.
Harlow and her owner, Debbie, and Pierre and his owner, Matt, received an exclusive tour of the UCLA Health Training Center, where the Lakers train (although the canine pair did more sniffing than looking). Harlow and Pierre also showed some love to the Lakers staff. The following week, the four attended a Laker game. Harlow and Pierre got lots of belly rubs from the Laker Girls and had their own grass patch in the concourse where they got to meet fans and pose for pictures. During the game, Harlow and Pierre were brought to center court and honored as Lakers for a Day.