Nurse adopts patient’s beloved dog to help him recover

Nurses often do everything they can to make their patients as comfortable as possible during difficult times. But Jennifer Smith, RN, of the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing facility in Rome, New York, went further.

Smith received a frantic phone call at 7 a.m. from one of his patients on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Sixty-year-old John Burley’s beloved dog Boomer had ended up at a local animal shelter after Burley fell ill with pneumonia and was hospitalized.

Smith had come to know Burley, who had suffered a stroke about a year ago, over the previous months while living alone and attending the Grand’s adult day health care program. And Smith had heard all about Burley’s 18-pound mixed race companion. Boomer was 12 now, but Burley and Boomer had been inseparable since the dog was a puppy.

So when Smith heard John on the other end of the line that Monday repeating, “‘Boomer’s in the pound! Boomer’s in the pound!'” she immediately replied that she would take care of the dog. .

“I couldn’t bear the thought of him never seeing Boomer again,” Smith said. MedPage today.

But there was a problem – Burley didn’t know which animal shelter Boomer had.

Immediately after hanging up on the phone with Burley, Smith began searching the internet for nearby animal shelters and scrolled through the list. The next day she found herself standing inside one that had been closed on Monday.

Remarkably, the woman at the front desk told Smith that the shelter definitely had Boomer.

There, at the back of the building, sat the dog that Smith knew all about. But, Smith recalls, it was their first “meeting”.

Boomer looked tiny in such a large kennel and compared to all the other big dogs, Smith said. Then he came over and licked her hand, and Smith had to tell her own family – including her 13-year-old Labrador – that she was bringing home a new dog.

Smith adopted Boomer on Thursday and even took the day off to acclimate him.

“It was just a hit,” Smith said. “He really is the best dog.”

On Friday, Smith began bringing Boomer to work with her so he could visit his best friend, Burley, who is now in rehabilitation. The company is perhaps even more important because Burley’s family lives in Arkansas. And it doesn’t hurt that Boomer is extremely well raised and trained.

Smith said that when she takes two steps, Boomer takes two steps. “It’s amazing,” she said.

Having Boomer nearby is good for Burley’s health, she added.

“It improves his mood; I think it makes him more motivated to improve,” Smith said. “What’s so great about this is that it’s a story that didn’t start out so well, and turned out to be something quite spectacular.”

So spectacular, in fact, that Boomer has even been a boon to other patients.

“Not only can John see it, but the residents of the nursing home can see it as well,” Smith said. “When I fly down the wings with him, they all smile, and they all know his name, and they all pet him. John is so proud.”

When Boomer isn’t making the rounds, he’s often planted in Burley’s lap.

“That’s why I became a nurse,” Smith said of her 12 years in the field. “I love helping people and taking care of people in any way I can.”

It’s not just about giving patients medicine to help them get better, she said.

“For John, it was the only thing I could do for him at that time,” Smith said of adopting Boomer.

Burley was so worried about her dog that he would have focused only on that and not on trying to get better, she said. “Taking that worry away from him means a lot,” Smith said.

Smith added that she will look after Boomer for Burley for as long as she needs him.

“We just take it one day at a time,” Smith said. “And in the meantime, I will continue to bring Boomer to him.”

  • Jennifer Henderson joined MedPage Today as a corporate and investigative writer in January 2021. She has covered New York healthcare, life sciences, and legal affairs, among other areas.