In early January the VA Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, became a brighter, cheerier place with the arrival of its newest staff member.
Her name is Honor, and she’s only 18 months old.
“Patients smile when they see her coming,” said 34-year-old Terri Woodworth, Honor’s co-worker. “All day long we make regular rounds to the chemo, palliative care and inpatient psych units. We walk around the entire medical center to visit patients throughout the day.”
Honor is a happy, easy-going Golden Retriever who, without even trying too hard, seems to be a natural at instantly boosting everyone’s spirits.
“She can really sense people’s emotions,” said Woodworth, a staffer on the hospital’s social work unit. “She senses emotions and reacts in just the right way to make someone feel better. Having Honor here, doing what she’s doing, is turning out to be better than I had ever imagined.”
The friendly canine always seems to hit the right note with every patient she sees.
Missing pets at home
“We were up on the psych ward earlier this morning,” Woodworth said, “and there was this Veteran sitting alone on the couch doing his crossword puzzle. We asked if he would like a visit with Honor. When he said ‘yes’ Honor just went right up to him, jumped on the couch and lay down next to him. He was delighted. He said, ‘Oh, I have a dog at home and I miss her so much…’
“It’s sad,” Woodworth continued, “because a lot of our patients have pets at home that they miss. So Honor is just what they need.”
She recalls one Veteran who had grown so despondent that he couldn’t even summon the will to get out of bed.
“He’d been in bed for three days,” she said. “He’d already been on the sick ward for a week and no one had come to visit him. But as soon as Honor and I walked into his room he brightened right up. He got out of bed, sat in his chair and loved on Honor for a while. His nurses were so happy. It made me pretty happy too.”
And Honor, of course, is always happy. All day long.
“She’s a morale booster, that’s for sure.” Woodworth said. “And she’s changing lives here.”