Lifestyle Pets Therapy Dogs from Children's Hospital L.A. Make Virtual Visits While Social Distancing "Just seeing a relaxed doggie face on the screen looking back at you does wonders," said one of the program's organizers By Benjamin VanHoose Benjamin VanHoose Twitter Benjamin VanHoose is an Associate Editor on the Movies team at PEOPLE. He's worked at PEOPLE for over three years as a writer and reporter across our Entertainment, Lifestyle and News teams, covering everything from the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial to the Oscars. He regularly covers red carpet events and has interviewed stars like Drew Barrymore, Ryan Reynolds and Kirsten Dunst. He previously worked as a copy editor at Topix Media Lab. People Editorial Guidelines Published on April 24, 2020 05:27 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles These pups won’t let a pandemic stop them from bringing a smile to young hospital patients. At the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the dog therapy program has adapted to make sure their lineup of 127 four-legged friends can still visit patients, families and staff, even if via a computer screen. For the organizers — who haven’t missed a day of service in the past five years — the work-around was a must for their mission to continue. “Our CHLA community was anxious, and we turned to innovation to help us provide something meaningful for them,” program manager Kate Buhrmaster said in a blog post, adding that the dogs use Webex video conference calls to chat with people. So far, over 60 of the 127 dogs and their handlers have been set up with equipment to do these socially distanced visits, which have been a hit with the humans on the other end of the call. “They were oohing and aahing at their screen,” Buhrmaster said. “Then the questions started: ‘Can you scratch him behind his ears? Can you give him a belly rub for me?’ Just seeing a relaxed doggie face on the screen looking back at you does wonders.” Therapy Dog Brings Joy to Emergency Room Workers Fighting Coronavirus at Denver Hospital Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories Aside from one-on-one check-ins, the program also holds weekly “Paws and Relax” meetups, when up to eight dogs call in to brighten the day of humans. “We know we are kind of like comfort food for the hospital,” Buhrmaster said. “We are a familiar part of the CHLA community. We let you check-in, take a deep breath and have a moment to appreciate that we are all in this together, even if we’re on the other side of a computer screen.” RELATED VIDEO: Doctor Reunites with Dog After Weeks of Being Separated From Working on Frontlines Against Coronavirus In the past, the L.A. program was again forced to get creative on how to reach patients they couldn’t share the room with. When they weren’t allowed to make in-person visits with those in the bone marrow transplant unit of the hospital due to strict isolation rules, they came up with an alternative. ‘Dogtor’ Loki the Therapy Dog Is Delivering Care Packages to Nurses amid Coronavirus Pandemic “People told us the thing that was going to be harder, on an emotional level, for the patients was not having the dog therapy program there. I thought ‘I can’t let that happen,’ ” Buhrmaster said. “We came up with the idea of doggie pen pals, where we can deliver laminated photos and letters from the dogs to the kids.” Added Buhrmaster: “Every time a challenge comes our way and we are faced with ‘How can you help in this situation?’ we meet that challenge. We believe a day without a dog would be a sad day at CHLA.” As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.