Snoopy the hospital dog is a hit with patients and staff in Paris

An English setter rescue dog at one of the world’s top cancer hospitals in Paris has been described as “a bubble of oxygen”

Snoopy bonds with the team and sits in a corridor of the hospital
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Snoopy was adopted from the SPA by the Institut Curie a year-and-a-half ago – the first dog to be adopted full-time by a hospital in France. 

He is part of a two-year study to analyse the effects of a ‘hospital dog’ and so far the results are promising.

“Very human-oriented, calm and cuddly,” is how Isabelle Fromantin, nurse and researcher at the Institut, described Snoopy to The Connexion. 

“In the hospital he is calm and barks very little, although outside he is as energetic and full of life as any setter.”

He has become an integral part of the cross-departmental wound and scar-healing team, meaning he is required to go almost everywhere in the hospital except places such as surgery, where it would be unhygienic.

Like a colleague

“We were worried how Snoopy would integrate past the first few weeks of excitement and novelty. Thankfully, we have won our bet and he is now firmly established within the Institut, with some staff referring to him as a colleague,” said Mrs Fromantin. 

Though not a service dog, Snoopy has been trained to behave appropriately in a hospital. For example, he places his head on the beds or the knees of patients rather than his paws, which pose more of a hygiene risk.

Mrs Fromantin can remember only two cases of people being allergic to dogs since Snoopy’s introduction, and both instances were easy to deal with. 

As part of the study to evaluate the effects of a dog in a hospital, Snoopy will be followed and patient responses to him recorded. 

Yet even without this data, Mrs Fromantin insists there is no doubt Snoopy’s presence makes a positive difference.

Tense atmosphere

“The atmosphere in a doctor’s waiting room is often not very relaxed. You can imagine that our waiting rooms, filled with people receiving cancer treatment or hoping to find out they are in remission, are extremely tense,” Mrs Fromantin said. 

“Snoopy does not care about cancer, so he is a bubble of oxygen for people.

“Sometimes, a scanner is broken and the pressure in the waiting room builds up even more than usual. We then bring in Snoopy, the room suddenly lights up and the mood transforms. People start chatting to those around them about Snoopy, whereas usually the room is silent.” 

He is also a reassuring presence for worried patients, going into surgery for example. 

Though he has fixed duties, Mrs Fromantin believes Snoopy is adaptable to most tasks that crop up during the day. For example, elderly patients can sometimes be uncommunicative. Snoopy helps make them more comfortable and eases them into talking. 

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Children’s ward

Another example is in the paediatric ward. “As the parents and children know each other, if a child dies, it is the entire ward, staff and patients alike, that suffers. 

“In these cases, we let Snoopy lie down in the corridor and all the children run up to him and play with him. It offers them a slight respite and allows parents to see their kids have their mind taken off cancer momentarily, playing as children should,” Mrs Fromantin said. 

“Of course, he cannot make the grief disappear but getting people to smile in the hospital is priceless. The benefits of Snoopy are extremely simple but extremely noticeable.” 

Mrs Fromantin insists he has a positive impact on colleagues too. The institute applied to have a hospital dog during the pandemic, when Mrs Fromantin noticed morale was very low among staff.

To their surprise, the application was successful and the difference Snoopy has since made has been marked.

Snoopy’s team will often receive texts from nurses or doctors asking if they can take him for a walk on their break. 

Bad days

“When you come into work and there is an adorable dog waiting for you, it makes the hard work a little easier,” said Mrs Fromantin. “If a nurse is having a bad day, they go and see Snoopy for a walk or even just a cuddle, and it helps.” 

Snoopy was severely malnourished and nervous when they found him at the SPA. He is now much healthier and happier. In fact, the vet has warned he is too spoiled. 

“Unfortunately, his renewed confidence means he has now worked out the way to the hospital garden and he takes himself there sometimes. As he is so well integrated, he just sits by a door and someone will open it for him without questioning, so now we know to look for him in the garden if we lose track of him,” said Mrs Fromantin. 

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However, as successful as Snoopy’s adoption has been, having animals in a hospital is far from straightforward. 

Around 70 hospitals have contacted the Institut Curie to enquire how it works, and Mrs Fromantin is quick to highlight the amount of work, organisation and structure it takes.

Snoopy is brought home by a rotating set of four nurses, who finish their shift an hour early to put less strain on him. This means colleagues often have to cover their work.


He also needs more vet visits than a typical dog and must be constantly supervised. 

Mrs Fromantin also points out the commitment is for the length of the dog’s life, not just for one or two years.

“I will be coming up to retirement in around 10 years and the plan is for Snoopy to retire with me, but we have had to think about that already. You cannot think short term with something like this,” she said.

This year, Mrs Fromantin was invited to speak at the 15th Congress of the Société Francophone de Chirurgie Oncologique and to bring Snoopy along too, with all expenses paid by the organisation. 

“Had you told me a year ago that Snoopy was to be invited to this Congress, I would have laughed but today it is a reality,” said Mrs Fromantin.

Two other hospitals are now following the institute’s lead and are in the early process of adopting a dog.