Service dog on staff: Ronald McDonald House welcomes comforting canine

Benson offers full-time comfort, playfulness and love when families need it most.


For families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, stress relievers are an important part of the healing process.

Marquisha Reed has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City, Missouri, while her infant son, Ezra, recovers from his second heart surgery at Children's Mercy Hospital.

"It's been a long road," Reed said. Her other two children are at home in Wichita, so she's been spending a lot of time alone.

Benson the 2-year-old burner-doodle, a recent full-time addition to the staff at the Ronald McDonald House, has been helping comfort Reed.

"It is a stress relief to be able to just sit, relax or play with the puppy," said Reed.

"They're here because their child is seriously ill and they need extra love, extra support sometimes the kind that no human can give," said Tami Greenberg, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Kansas City.

Benson is fully trained and is there to hang out and comfort the more than 87 families currently staying there.

With COVID and social distancing guidelines to consider, Benson is even more important these days.

"We can't give a mom a hug after having a horrible day at the hospital. So Benson gets to do that for us," said Kelley Von Towle, Benson's handler.

"There's, like, very limited physical contact with anybody, so when you need a hug and you don't have anyone there, it's great to have something," said Reed.