Beloved service dog moves on after helping hospital staff get through the COVID-19 pandemic

Aside from being our loyal companions, dogs have this natural ability to give us a sense of calm with their mere presence.

That’s precisely what a soon-to-be service dog named Wynn provided to the emergency room staff at Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado.

Hospital employees credited the good girl for bringing much-needed emotional support to health care workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Susan Ryan with Wynn, a future service dog

Wynn was with the hospital for two years. Dr. Susan Ryan, an emergency physician at the facility, volunteered to raise her for Canine Companions for Independence, a company providing service dogs to people in need.

“In the beginning it was really overwhelming. There was a palpable sense of fear and we didn’t know what we were going to see,” Dr. Ryan told KDVR during the onset of the pandemic.

“We all witnessed a lot this year. We had incredible camaraderie, we were the best team I ever imagined being around and she was part of our team — she saw us through,” she added.

Dr. Ryan said people would pet the Labrador mix and break out into a smile. Even during the hardest days, the pup was there to bring everyone comfort.

Wynn playing with hospital staff at Rose Medical Center

If they had a choice, hospital employees would want the dog to stay at the facility for a bit longer, but a much bigger legacy awaits her.

Wynn will undergo more vigorous training to determine what kind of service dog she will be. She could help veterans suffering from PTSD, be a companion to children with special needs, or become a facility dog helping patients in hospitals.

“It’s a proud moment and it’s a sad moment. She taught me how to stay present in the worst year of our lives and that’s a pretty big lesson,” Dr. Ryan said.

Nurse Diane Callaghan said that dealing with the virus “would have been probably a lot worse” without Wynn. The dog really proved to be especially helpful during such a dark and scary period.

Callaghan remembered feeling upset one day while working with a dying patient. Overcome with emotions, she started to cry, and before she knew it, Wynn had flopped onto her lap and rolled over. It’s as if the dog understood exactly what the nurse needed at the time.

Wynn playing with paramedics

Wynn had also become a cherished source of comfort for paramedics, police officers, and other staff in the center. Hospital employees would often come by just to get their dose of “puppy kisses.”

The ER staff recently held a sweet send-off party for Wynn. They even made signs for the beloved canine, calling her a “hero.” She walked out of the center for the last time on February 10.

Although Wynn’s departure is bittersweet, Dr. Ryan and her staff are grateful for the time they got to spend with her.

“I’m realizing how special it was to have Wynn around,” a nurse named Raina Shah said. “I didn’t fully realize how much of an impact a dog can have.”

In March last year, Wynn went viral after the hospital shared a Facebook post detailing the impact Wynn had made on the staff during the start of the pandemic.

Wynn, a Labrador retriever soon-to-be a service dog

“She’s a calm presence, she grounds us. Everybody goes and seeks her out when they need just an extra bit of a minute to pet her, snuggle or kiss her,” Dr. Ryan said of Wynn.

The emergency physician also explained how an emotional support animal can be beneficial, especially during unprecedented times like this.

“The data behind what a dog and human bond can do, to break down the walls of isolation, which is really important in this time when people are physically distancing. They don’t have to be socially or emotionally distant,” she said.

Dr. Ryan has applied to receive a new puppy for the ER department.

Dogs are indeed the best at giving love, support, and comfort during tough times!

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