Amid these challenging times, Rose Medical Center in Denver is very fortunate to have a service dog in training ready to give medical workers comfort and support when they need it.
Wynn, a yellow Labrador retriever, weighs only 41 pounds. Yet, her small frame doesn’t stop her from fulfilling a big job: comforting and bringing joy to the medical staff on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.
The one-year-old dog is available to give cuddles to health workers who need mental and emotional breaks from the emergency room at Rose Medical Center.
The pup is familiar with the medical staff in the hospital as she’s being trained by Susan Ryan, an emergency doctor at the facility. On Sunday, she shared a photo of her with Wynn. In it, the doctor is seen wearing protective gear while sitting on the hospital floor. She was petting Wynn, who was lying right beside her.
“I saw Wynn coming back in from being walked outside,” Ryan told CNN. “I just slumped down on the floor and said, ‘Can I just have a minute with her?'”
Ryan said she had just finished with a patient and cleaned up before bonding with Wynn. She said having dogs around helps medical staff tremendously, especially in a working environment like theirs.
“Seeing stuff and hearing stuff that you can’t unsee has an impact on you,” Ryan explained. “That’s where the dogs come in. When you are in the presence of the dog and petting them you are taking a moment to ground yourself at that present time.”
Ryan’s picture with Wynn resonated with people from all over the world.
“I started getting messages from people in other countries and they said they were so touched by it. When that happened, I didn’t really think about my own privacy or Wynn’s. I just thought, ‘This is touching people and they’re really having a hard time right now,'” she said.
Wynn is currently undergoing training to become a service dog for Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that provides highly-trained assistance dogs for adults, children, veterans, and professionals, according to its website.
Ryan is a volunteer puppy raiser who has been training Wynn since she was eight weeks old. Her job is to socialize the puppy and provide her with basic training before she heads off to become professionally trained as a service dog. As part of her socialization, Ryan frequently takes the pup to the hospital for visits before the COVID-19 outbreak came.
Wynn is stationed in the social worker’s office and available for medical staff who want to relieve stress by basking on some puppy love. During the session, the lights in the room are dimmed while meditation music plays. Then, the social worker covers them with a warm blanket as they cuddle with Wynn.
The impact Wynn has on the medical staff is astounding.
“When they go out, their faces are entirely different,” Ryan said. “Wynn seems to know when people are stressed and she gets closer and climbs on top of their laps. I like to think she’s that in tune.”
Since the hospital started implementing extra safety precautions, everyone who comes in contact with Wynn is advised to wash their hands thoroughly before touching her. The vest, collar, and leash that she uses during her visits are washed after her shifts. The dog is also wiped down following every hospital visit.
Now, more than ever, the staff at Rose Medical Center need Wynn’s cuddles and kisses, and this good girl is more than happy to give it to them!