When Joe Tasby and his dog Cupid walked into the emergency room of a Nevada hospital in mid-March, he thought they’d be able to go home in a matter of days. The 70-year-old Vietnam veteran, who is blind, went to HCA Healthcare’s Southern Hills Hospital in Las Vegas, believing he had torn a shoulder tendon lifting weights. However, it turned out that he had something far more severe.
Doctors discovered that he had lung disease and heart arrhythmia. He was admitted immediately, and his guide dog Cupid stayed by his side.
“We are a team,” he said about his relationship with the yellow Labrador. “I’m not right if he’s not with me, and he’s not right if I’m not with him.”
Joe began losing his vision five years ago because of glaucoma and diabetes. Last year, Guide Dogs for the Blind set him up with Cupid.
For the first several days, Joe’s daughter, Tiffini, visited him. She would also help feed and walk Cupid. However, things changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit. The hospital locked down and banned visitors. Joe immediately thought of Cupid and how he was going to care for him throughout his stay.
“I got in the hospital at the time when the pandemic was just starting, all of a sudden I couldn’t get visitors from outside and I had Cupid with me. I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Joe told CBS News.
Thankfully, nurse Barbara Borbeck came to their rescue.
Every day for almost three weeks, Barbara, who is the Nevada hospital’s medical-surgical and telemetry director, helped Joe with Cupid’s care. She would come first thing in the morning and take him out for a walk around the hospital as she did her rounds. The nurse made sure that Cupid enjoyed enough time outside to get some fresh air and exercise. She also gave him food and treats. On her days off, she enlisted hospital staff to help the pair while she’s not around. In short, Barbara took care of everything that Joe and Cupid needed.
“She was incredible; it was a big weight off of my shoulders,” Joe said.
Because of her kindness, Cupid began to grow fond of Barbara during his hospital stay. Every day, he would wait at the door for her to arrive and greet her with a wagging tail.
“He really took to her. Sometimes I would see him jumping up and down, and so excited and happy to see her,” Joe recalled. “He can usually tell if people have good spirit and no doubt, Barbara has a great spirit.”
Beyond her love for animals, Barbara has professional respect towards Cupid’s role in caring for her patient.
“I realized that the team would really need to focus on Joe, and Cupid would need care while he was here supporting Joe,” she told CNN. “With the kind of work Cupid does, it’s important that he’s not getting ill and that we maintain his normality.”
When the dog ran out of his special food, Barbara went on a mission to get it. The first four times she went to local grocery stores, she found nothing but empty shelves. The nurse refused to give up and drove 40 minutes one morning before her shift to a store that had it just to make sure Cupid had the right dinner.
“How do you really express gratitude when somebody steps up and does that for you in a time when it would be really difficult, next to impossible for me to do it,” Joe said.
While Barbara certainly helped Cupid, the dog gave something in return to her and the rest of the staff during a tough time. Due to the lockdown, the Nevada hospital wasn’t able to bring in therapy dogs that regularly visit the facility. On some of her daily walks, Barbara visited other departments alongside Cupid. As simple as that, the pooch brought so much joy to health workers during this pandemic.
After 21 days of confinement, Joe and Cupid went home on April 1. Barbara walked with them out the front door and all the way to the car. She said she’s “looking forward to visiting Joe and Cupid again when things open back up.”
“I left there thinking, ‘I have to find some kind of way to show this lady how much I appreciate what she’s done for us through a difficult time,'” Joe explained. “It’s fortunate when you meet somebody who is in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. And that is Barbara.”
Watch the video below from CBS News to learn more about this story.
Joe said that as a Vietnam veteran, he recognizes heroes when he sees them. And seeing her compassion and hard work, there’s no doubt that Barbara is certainly one.