Flexjet partners with University Hospitals to transport Pet Pals facility dogs

By Doug Gollan, November 29, 2022

The highly trained facility dogs were flown aboard a Flexjet Praetor 500. They will comfort children and adults undergoing highly stressful medical treatments

Flexjet is expanding its longstanding relationship with University Hospitals (UH) by supporting the Pet Pals Program.

Flexjet transported a team of dogs and their handlers from their 14-month training program at Canine Assistants in Atlanta to long-term assignments at UH, where they will comfort children and adults undergoing stressful medical treatments.

Only 150 facility dogs with this highly specialized training are working at hospitals across the country.

With these two Golden Retrievers – Loki, a one-year-old male, and Natasha, a one-year-old female – UH will now offer four facility dogs at various locations throughout its main campus, UH Cleveland Medical Center.

These special dogs live with hospital staff – often a doctor or a nurse and will work a 40-hour work week alongside them.

The dogs, typically Golden Retrievers, Labradors, or Goldendoodles, work in pediatric hematology/oncology at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and the Breen Breast Health Facility at UH Seidman Cancer Center, to name a few.

Loki, who will work in Volunteer Services, and Natasha, who will be in the UH Rainbow pediatric intensive care unit, and their handlers arrived at Cuyahoga County Airport, east of downtown Cleveland onboard a Flexjet Praetor 500 midsized jet.

They were greeted by their new families and taken to their new homes.

“We consider it an honor to fly these Pet Pals and their handlers to their new homes here in Cleveland, OH, while also expanding our partnership with University Hospitals,” said Michael J. Silvestro, Flexjet’s Chief Executive Officer.

He added, “Our aircraft Owners frequently fly with their pets and consider them members of their families, so we know just what to do to keep our canine and feline guests as comfortable and cared for as possible. I see it firsthand every time I travel with our dogs.”


Pet Pals is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that relies on donations to cover the dogs’ costs, training, transportation, and other expenses.

PetSmart Charities is among the donors who made this new team of support animals possible.

Pet therapy has multiple benefits for children and adults, reducing stress, promoting healing, lowering blood pressure, and lifting spirits. It also provides healing touch and joy for child and adult patients and UH caregivers.

According to Diane Pekarek, the Pet Pals Program Coordinator at UH, “When a patient comes to the hospital, it’s at a time of intense stress and worry. However, when patients see a facility dog or pet therapy animal, their faces and their demeanor change. Their cares ease. No matter how sick patients are, they always want a pet pal to visit them.”

Each dog already in the UH program has been trained for a specific job: Melena, a female Golden Retriever, works in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. Blue, a male Golden/Lab Doodle, is assigned to assist hospital employees.

In 2020, Flexjet entered into a partnership with University Hospitals’ Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine, which offered a wide range of services designed to address the health-related needs and concerns of Flexjet’s sophisticated, globetrotting clientele.

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