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Josh Says "You'll Be O.K."



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By Gay Lyons. Photography by Katharine Emlen.

“It’s such a simple thing, but there’s nothing like this.”

That’s how Erin Donovan, newly hired executive director of the non-profit organization, describes Josh and Friends.

Josh and Friends was formed when Randy Lange, DVM, of Knoxville set out to alleviate stress and provide comfort to children going into the hospital.

In August of 1994, Dr. Lange’s nine-year old daughter underwent a tonsillectomy at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. During this experience, Dr. Lange conceived the idea of writing “I’ll Be O.K.” and producing the plush Josh puppy. Josh, the comfort pup, was designed to look like the Lange family’s beloved golden retriever. 

As a veterinarian, Dr. Lange was well aware of the power of the human-animal bond. He envisioned Josh the dog as a companion for children in stressful situations, a friend who could go where a live dog couldn’t. Children would be able to take Josh with them to doctor’s appointments and to the hospital.  

Two years later, after interviewing families whose children had been hospitalized, physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, counselors and teachers, Dr. Lange completed “I’ll Be O.K.” In the book Josh describes his medical journey in terms understandable to children who can relate to Josh’s experience.

Josh was specially constructed to be more than just a furry friend.

“All four paws are weighted,” says Donovan. “The extra weight helps mold Josh to a child’s body. It gives them the comfort of the weight. If it can’t be mom or dad’s hand to hold, it can be a paw.”

The original Josh became quite a celebrity as he traveled with Dr. Lange to promote the Josh and Friends project. Josh passed away in 2009, but his work is carried on by the newest additions to the Lange family, Josh 3.0 and J.J., who never pass up an opportunity for a road trip.

In a few years, Josh the Dog was joined by his friend, G.I. Josh, who was created to provide comfort to children who have a parent deployed in the military.

Since their creation in 1999, at least 90,000 Josh kits have been placed with children. About 10,000 of those were G.I. Josh kits, A Josh kit includes a “dog house,” a book and a plush Josh. Medical Josh wears a red bandana; G.I. Josh’s bandana is a camouflage print.

Kits are distributed through individuals, American Legion posts, businesses and veterinary students. Children’s hospitals nationally have placed them, as have civic organizations such as Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. 

“People may not know about Josh,” says Donovan, “and they need to know about it. This is about helping children who are in stressful situations. You’re helping children. You’re giving parents peace of mind.”

Donovan envisions more Joshes. 

“A woman said to me, ‘This would be perfect for my grandson, who’s autistic.’ There are a lot more places Josh can go.

“We have so many children, maybe being fostered, being adopted, going into a new situation,” said Donovan. “Can you imagine if we could get this into the courts? I want Josh to have a judge’s robe. 

“I want Josh to go wherever he’s needed.”

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Good Boy!

Josh is the only project approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association in its over 150 year history. 

Josh is only non-human to receive the Children’s Miracle Network Champion designation, the highest honor they bestow on their celebrity supporters.

What Parents Say

“It is incredible to me how much Josh the dog and his story have become a part of our son’s life. I feel incapable of expressing our gratitude for the comfort you have brought our son.” 
“We want to express our deepest gratitude for creating Josh the Dog and for writing such a wonderful book! It truly has been a gift to our family to have these special tools to help us through a difficult and scary time.”

“Josh convinced our daughter that it’s normal to be scared, that he and her family truly love her, that he would be by her side throughout surgery and that she would be OK.”

“Josh was a comforting companion before, during, and after our son’s surgery. We read Josh’s book to him while he waited to be taken to surgery. Josh helped all of us from the little bothers who needed to cuddle to the adults who literally needed to hold on to something as we waited through the long hours.”

To send Josh to a child who needs comforting, go to joshandfriends.com.

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