Paws & Play, supported by PetSmart Charities®

Paws & Play is the facility dog program at the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai. Professor, our first-ever facility dog, is a full-time “employee” in the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department. This program pairs Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) with skills of a Certified Child Life Specialist to provide therapeutic interventions for patients and families. Animal-Assisted Therapy and facility dogs have been found to increase positive behaviors, reduce experiences of pain, lower blood pressure, and decrease experiences of depression and fatigue. Just as important, AAT has also proven to reduce patient anxiety during medical appointments, reduce feelings of isolation, and provide opportunities for increased social support.

Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Pet Smart Charities and their three-year funding commitment, Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai has launched this innovative and therapeutic program. Together we are committed to enhancing patient care while pioneering research in this area.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to questions we hear often about Paws & Play.

What is a facility dog?

A facility dog is an animal specially trained to work in the health care environment. Professor was trained as a service dog at Canine Assistants in Milton, Georgia where he was exposed to a variety of environments and experiences to prepare him to work with the children and families at our hospital.

How is this program special?

Certified child life specialists incorporate Professor into therapeutic treatment plans using Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) to address the individual clinical needs of our patient populations. AAT is a goal-directed intervention that incorporates the animal into the treatment process. It is considered a therapeutic form of treatment.

What areas does Professor work in and how often?

Professor spends his time in the outpatient pediatric hematology/oncology clinic with his primary handler, Ali Spike, MS, CCLS. Professor also sees patients who are referred to him on the inpatient units and pediatric intensive care unit with Ali and his secondary handler, Toshiko Nonaka, MS, CCLS. 

Professor is a full-time facility dog and spends 40 hours a week at the hospital, based on his handler’s schedule.

Can families request to meet Professor?

Yes. If your child is having a difficult time coping with the hospital environment, is experiencing significant pain, or needs more motivation to achieve clinical goals, you can contact your child life specialist to request a session with Professor. If your child loves animals or misses a pet from home, your child life specialist can refer your child to our volunteer pet therapy program. Professor also appears on a weekly Kid Zone TV show on Thursdays at 3 pm, so your child can tune in and see him on TV.

How did Professor get his name? What is his breed?

Professor is named after Professor Bunsen Honeydew from the Muppets. He is a golden doodle. He is ¾ golden retriever and ¼ poodle.

What does Professor do after work and on the weekends?

Professor lives with his primary handler, Ali Spike. After work Professor enjoys going for long walks in the park and playing with his favorite toys. On the weekends, Professor loves to sleep in and get cozy on the couch. Professor sometimes goes home with his secondary handler, Toshiko Nonaka, where he is spoiled with treats and love.

How do I get more information about Paws & Play and Professor?

For more information about Professor and Paws & Play programming, please contact Morgan Stojanowski at or 212-241-2939.

Follow Professor on Instagram for the latest updates @MountSinai_PawsandPlay.