BUFFALO, N.Y.- With Dasher, Dancer and Prancer back at the North Pole, here in Buffalo, pets like Poppy, Angus and Patrick are picking up the slack.
The pets are part of a group that makes a yearly visit to Kaleida's pediatric long-term care facility, which has recently moved and been re-named "Highpointe at Michigan."
"Some children can't walk, some children are on ventilators," said Maureen Caruana, Vice President of long-term care at Highpointe. There are twenty beds for children at the facility, and all are full.
The yearly visit always occurs around Christmas, and it is organized by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Most of the pet owners/ volunteers are vets themselves.
"It's really great just to be able to do a little bit of what we do everyday working with pets and feeling the love of pets and being able to share those with kids," said Dr. Reed Stevens, a veterinarian at the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society.
Latia Boykin's son Daemien has been in and out of the hospital for most of his young life.
"Its been a long hard struggle with him," said Boykin.
After a few minutes with one of these pups, he's smiling.
"He loves them," said Boykin. "He'll start talking, he'll start smiling."
She hopes Daemien will be able to come home next month, but in truth, many of these children are all too familiar with long, hard struggles. Some have been brought here because their families can no longer care for them, and some are too disabled to leave.
Fifteen-year-old Brianna can't remember how long she's been here.
When asked, she answers simply, "A long time."
Her doctors say it's been about four years.
She is a sweet and friendly teenager, and her eyes light up when you mention dogs.
"I love walking them," she said.
And during Wednesday's visit, she had a chance to do just that.
Whether its a short walk, or chance to brush them, these pets bring plenty of big grins.
"You can see it by the smiles on their faces," said Caruana. "There's some children here that I've never even seen respond, except when there's pets in the building."
The group also brought toys that will be distributed to the children at a later date, after they have been divided.