SANTIAGO, Sept 23 (Reuters) – Pepe, a Chilean “therapist” with long blonde fur, and Chimu, his feisty black-and-white female canine companion, stroll the hallways of a pediatric hospital in the capital Santiago, licking hands and offering their ears and bellies for caressing.

The partners are part of a team of gregarious canines helping to relieve stress at the Exequiel Gonzalez Cortes hospital in San Miguel, an urban facility that had been for months overwhelmed by cases of coronavirus and other emergency surgeries.

“When one enters (the hospital) with dogs, they all greet you and their expressions change,” said Nicole Faust, a dog trainer with Fundacion Tregua, a non-governmental group that works in canine therapy.