A therapy dog named Loki, also known as “Dogtor Loki,” is helping the nurses in Maryland by bringing them comfort and “Hero Healing Kits” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The rottweiler used to visit patients at the University of Maryland Medical Center three times a week with her owner, Caroline Benzel, before the COVID-19 outbreak. The dog, dressed in her signature custom-made white coat, was so good at her job of lifting the spirits of everyone at the hospital, including medical staff. However, when the virus hit, the duo had to cancel these visits.
“I got pulled from school and the front lines,” the second-year medical student said. “I was used to being at the hospital multiple days a week with Loki.”
Caroline told Fox17 that she first adopted Loki around the same time that she got accepted into medical school. She wanted her own therapy dog after seeing the positive effect one had on her sick grandfather.
“My grandfather was sick and I lived with him in his hospital room for a month,” she explained. “When he would see this dog, he would light up.”
She started training Loki when she was just 18 weeks old. Since then, the pup has become used to the hospital’s environment and patients. Caroline describes Loki as an “empathetic” dog who was a natural at her job.
Caroline knew that healthcare workers needed Loki’s support now more than ever, so she worked out an alternative arrangement that would allow the pup to support the patients and the nurses from afar: remote therapy dog visits. Caroline and Loki would sit on her mom’s front yard and FaceTime with the staff to lessen their stresses and anxieties amid this unprecedented crisis. She tells the patients to close their eyes and imagine they’re enjoying the outdoors.
During these sessions, the dog mom noticed the physical strain nurses and custodians were experiencing having to wear personal protective equipment gear throughout their shifts.
“Everyone was wearing PPE 24/7 and because of that, they were getting rashes and irritation from wearing masks,” Caroline said. She felt compelled to help them ease their discomfort and came up with packages she called “hero healing kits.”
These kits contained hypoallergenic lotion to heal irritated skin, packs of gum to help relieve dry mouth, medicated powder to lessen skin irritation, Vaseline, chap-stick, and packets of coffee and tea. Each package also had a thank you note with messages of gratitude to the front liners. Caroline collected these materials through donations via an Amazon Wishlist.
As of her April 11th update, Caroline has collected about 1,400 kits but is closer to over 1,600 incomplete kits. The packages will benefit workers at four different hospitals. By sharing her project, Caroline hopes to inspire other people to start the same in their own communities, and some of them already have!
A medical student in Philadelphia also launched a similar initiative there. Some individuals in New Jersey, North Carolina, and other parts of Maryland were also inspired to do the same.
‘Dogtor Loki’ has certainly made a lot of Maryland nurses and other hospital staff happy. If you would like to donate to their cause, you can visit their Amazon Wishlist. You can also share this story so the project can reach more people and attract more donors!