Caregivers 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 a step further.
At 7 a.m. on the Monday after Thanksgiving, Smith received a desperate call from one of her patients. 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 met Burley, who had had a stroke about a year ago, in the previous months while living alone and attending the Grand Health program’s Adult Day. And Smith had heard all about Burley’s 18-pound mixed breed companion. Boomer was now 12 years old, but Burley and Boomer had been inseparable since the dog was a puppy.
When Smith heard John on the other end of the line that Monday repeat, “Boomer’s in the pound! Boomer’s in the pound,” she replied immediately that she would take care of the dog.
“I couldn’t stand the thought that he would never see Boomer again,” Smith told MedPage Today.
But there was one problem – Burley didn’t know which shelter Boomer was in.
Immediately after speaking to Burley on the phone, Smith began searching the internet for nearby animal shelters and went down the list. The next day it was in one that had been closed on Monday.
Notably, the woman at the front desk told Smith that the shelter definitely has boomers.
There, at the back of the building, sat the dog Smith knew well. But Smith remembered that this was their first meet-and-greet.
Boomer looked tiny in a kennel this big 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 that Thursday and even took a day off from work to acclimate him.
“It was just a success,” said Smith. “He really is the best dog.”
On Friday, Smith started taking Boomer to work so he could visit his best friend Burley, who is currently in rehab. The camaraderie is perhaps even more important since Burley’s family lives far away in Arkansas. And it doesn’t hurt that Boomer is extremely well-behaved and trained.
Smith said that if she takes two steps, Boomer will take two steps. “It’s amazing,” she said.
Having boomers around is beneficial to Burley’s health, she added.
“It gets his spirits up; I think it motivates him to get better,” said Smith. “The great thing about it is that it’s a story that didn’t start out that well and turned out to be pretty spectacular.”
So spectacular that Boomer was a boon even to other patients.
“Not only does John see him, but the residents of the nursing home, too,” said Smith. “When I walk over the wings with him, everyone smiles and everyone knows his name and they all stroke him. John is just so proud. “
When Boomer isn’t making the rounds, he’s often planted on Burley’s lap.
“That’s why I went into nursing,” said Smith of her 12 years in the field. “I love helping people and taking care of them in any way I can.”
It’s not just about giving patients medication to help them get well, she said.
“For John, that’s the only thing I can do for him right now,” Smith said of the Boomer adoption.
Burley was so concerned about his dog that he focused only on it, not trying to get better, she said. “Taking that worry away from him means a lot,” said Smith.
Smith added that she will take care of boomers for Burley for as long as necessary.
“We only take it one day at a time,” said Smith. “And in the meantime, I’ll just keep bringing boomers to him.”