Nurse adopts elderly rehab patient’s dog so he can visit his owner and help him get better 

A kind New York nurse went above and beyond the call of duty when she rescued a patient’s beloved dog from the pound.

John Burley, 60, was forced to surrender his 13-year-old dog, Boomer, when he was hospitalized due to pneumonia the day before Thanksgiving.

John worried about his four-legged best friend, so on the Monday after Thanksgiving, he called Jennifer Smith, a registered nurse at the Adult Day Healthcare program at The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Rome, to tell her about the news.

Jennifer Smith holding Boomer the dog
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“John was calling from his hospital room saying, ‘Boomer is in the pound!’ Boomer is in the pound!’ Boomer is John’s world,” Jennifer told CNN.

The two had met at the nursing center in Rome, New York, through its adult day healthcare program for patients requiring supervision.

John still had his own apartment, where he lived alone with his pet. He had adopted Boomer in Arkansas when he was a puppy and later moved to New York. Most of his family lives in Arkansas, so he had no one to call to care for his dog when he was hospitalized.

Luckily, Jennifer was there to take up the task. She became friends with John in the adult daycare program, and he would often talk to her about Boomer and show her his pictures.

So when John asked her if she could take care of his senior dog, Jennifer agreed right away. She had a 13-year-old dog herself, so she fully understood John’s situation.

The problem was, John didn’t know which shelter Boomer was in. Jennifer looked up nearby animal shelters, called the Rome Humane Society, and confirmed that the pup had been taken there.

The facade of Adult Day Healthcare at The Grand at Rome
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The following day, she took an early lunch and drove to the shelter. There, she found the 18-pound Boomer in a large kennel in the back all by himself.

“I crouched down and I put my hand on the cage. And he came up to me and he licked my finger. I said ‘where do I sign the adoption papers? I am here to adopt him,’” Jennifer said.

Jennifer immediately called John to let him know that she had found Boomer and that he was okay. The latter was so relieved upon learning that Boomer was in good hands.

After paying the adoption fee, Jennifer shopped for food, a crate, toys, and clothes for the canine.

During John’s time in the hospital, Jennifer called every day to update him about how Boomer was settling in her home. She said the dog happily slept in her daughter’s room every night.

When it was time to leave the hospital, John was told he would need rehabilitation before being sent home.

John Burley reuniting with his dog Boomer
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On the day of his discharge, Jennifer prepared a surprise by dressing Boomer in a cute plaid shirt and bringing him to work.

Once he was settled in the room, Kimberleigh Hare from Adult Day Healthcare at The Grand asked John if he was feeling well enough for a surprise visit, and he said yes.

“When he saw Jennifer and Boomer come around the corner, he just burst into tears and reached for his pal,” Hare recalled. “There was not a dry eye in the room between residents and staff. He was so happy to see the dog and so thankful to Jennifer for saving him.”

While John lived in the rehabilitation wing of the center, Jennifer brought Boomer to work and would take him up to his owner’s room a couple times a day.

“It helps John with the healing process and gives him peace of mind,” she said.

John Burley in a wheelchair cradling his dog Boomer as nurse Jennifer Smith pets him
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John loves showing off Boomer as he rests on his lap in the wheelchair. The other residents in the nursing home have also grown to love the dog. They smile and pet him when they see him.

Jennifer said that the dog is extremely well-behaved and trained, so he was always a welcome visitor at the center.

“That’s why I went into nursing,” said Jennifer, who has been in the profession for 12 years. “I love helping people and taking care of people in any way that I can.”

She also promised John that she would take care of Boomer for as long as he needed her to. Right now, she just wants him to focus on getting better.

And as for Jennifer’s king act, John had three simple words to say: “I love Jennifer.”

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