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What Happens to a Support Dog When Owner is Hospitalized? Now We Know.

July 15, 2021

Caregivers constantly strive to provide the very best patient care and experience to every person who walks through the hospital doors.

But what about dogs?

Recently, a patient who is a frequent visitor at the Windham Hospital Emergency Department needed to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. What to do with his support dog, Cleo, who goes everywhere with him, became an issue.

Cleo the support dog.

A group of colleagues across multiple departments answered the call for help, and within a couple of hours, a temporary home was found for Cleo while her human was in the hospital. And though it was good news for Cleo to have a safe and welcoming place to stay, it’s great news that from this experience the hospital has now put together an emergency plan should the need arise again.

And the patient now knows he has someone he can call in an emergency to help care for Cleo.

“This is such a heartwarming example of colleagues doing the best thing, the caring thing, the right thing, the safe thing and the just thing,” said Megan Kokofski, a licensed social worker at the hospital, who was involved in Operation Cleo.

The hospital’s plan that came out of this episode is that now staff has contacts with a couple of area veterinarians and residents who foster dogs who are willing to be called upon in an emergency if a patient’s support animal needs care while they are hospitalized, at no cost to the patient, said Kelcey Johnson, Director of Human Centered Care for Hartford HealthCare’s East Region.

Special shoutouts to: Kokofski, Johnson, Jill Nickerson, ED nurse manager; Kathy Fahey, ED clinical social worker; Robin Mott, manager of Women’s Health Services; Adrianna Figueroa and Kevin “Big Chips” Wilbur from Public Safety; and Jason Landry and Javier Diaz from Food and Nutrition Services for helping Cleo!