Going Beyond: Nurse Rescues Dog of Hospitalized Patient from the Shelter

by Victoria Santiago
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A nurse at the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing Center got a special request from one of her favorite patients. As soon as Jennifer Smith got into work after Thanksgiving, she received a distressing call from her patient John Burley. His dog Boomer was in the pound.

The nurse of 12 years could immediately tell that he was worried and scared about what would happen to his pup. When speaking to CNN, Smith said that the phone was ringing off its hook first thing in the morning. When she answered the call, Burley “took a breath and asked me, ‘Will you take care of Boomer?’ And I said, ‘Of course, John. I will find Boomer and take care of him for you.'”

Smith and Burley met at the adult day healthcare program put on by the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rome, New York. The program is for patients that need to be supervised. In addition to receiving medical care, the patients can socialize with one another. At that time Burley, 60, still had his own apartment, where he lived with his pup. He originally adopted Boomer as a puppy in Arkansas and then they moved to New York together. Most of Burley’s family still lives in Arkansas. When he was diagnosed with pneumonia and hospitalized, he had no family to take care of Boomer. Smith gladly stepped in to help.

An Unbroken Bond Between A Nurse, A Patient, and A Dog

Smith said that when she first met Burley at the adult day healthcare program, he constantly talked about his dog. He had no shortage of cute puppy pictures to share, of course. Smith understands the bond that Burley and Boomer have. She has her own lifelong furry companion – a dog she’s had for the last 13 years.

When Burley said that Boomer had been taken to a shelter, Smith immediately panicked. She didn’t know which shelter he had been taken to. She also didn’t know how long Boomer had been in the shelter at that point. Because it was so close to the holidays, she worried that another family had already adopted him.

After looking up shelters near her and a few phone calls, she was on her way to pick up Boomer. He wasn’t quite ready to be released from the shelter yet, but Smith was still ecstatic to be able to tell Burley she found his pup. Boomer came to stay with Smith a few days after that and has been settling into his new environment.

Burley is temporarily living in the rehabilitation part of the nursing center. He might not be able to have Boomer with him all the time, but Smith gets to bring the dog to work with her. She takes the pup up to his room for a visit a few times a day. It’s one less thing for him to worry about on his road to recovery. This unexpected friendship has made everyone in the nursing center smile. They all love Boomer, and they all appreciate what lengths one nurse will go through so that her patients are okay.

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