Colorful canines bring comfort to cancer care

Kentucky Children's Hospital. Katie Carmichale sits among the hospital's therapy dogs and their handlers, with her portraits hanging on the wall above them

Katie Belle Carmichael has spent more time in the hospital than most 12-year-olds. The preteen has been undergoing chemotherapy and surgery to treat bone cancer for two years, which meant long stays at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Looking for something to do, she began creating artwork of some hospital workers – therapy dogs.

Her exhibit, “Pups of Color,” which opened Oct. 15 on the hospital’s ground floor and was attended by some of the four-footed subjects, features portraits of the hospital’s therapy dogs who visited her room during her stays. The colorful portraits provide a welcoming – and adorable – atmosphere to a place that can be scary for young patients. It took Carmichael about eight months to finish the artwork. Katie has now completed treatment, but returns to the hospital for scans and other forms of follow-up care.

Erin McAnallen, an expressive arts resource specialist at the hospital, spoke about how art can help patients facing long hospital stays. “It keeps them creatively engaged in hopes of easing the stress of treatment,” she said. “Art can be transformative and healing.”

“I want people to realize that you aren’t alone,” Carmichael told Louisville’s Spectrum One News. “These guys are here … It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are; there’s always a way to escape, to get some relief and to have some fun.”

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