Nursing Blogs

Nurse Saves Her Favorite Patient’s Dog from the Shelter


One nurse went above and beyond for her patients over the holidays. When Jennifer Smith found out that one of her favorite patients was upset because his dog was in the pound, she went to the animal shelter to make sure their pet made it home safely.

Reunited for Christmas

No one wants to spend the holidays without their beloved pet. It was just after Thanksgiving when Smith got a call at work from her patient John Burley.

“I came into work the Monday after Thanksgiving to the phone ringing at 7 a.m.,” Smith said. “John was calling from his hospital room saying, ‘Boomer is in the pound!’ Boomer is in the pound!’ Boomer is John’s world.”  

Smith knew John wouldn’t have called her unless it was an emergency.

“He 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,'” she said.

Their relationship started when Smith was caring for Burley at the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rome, New York. She was supervising the center’s adult day healthcare program, which lets patients socialize with others while they receive medical care.

Burley was living alone at the time with Boomer in a one-bedroom apartment. He had just moved to New York from Arkansas and most of his family still lives there. When he came down with pneumonia and lung issues, he had no one else to call for help except Smith.

Smith, who’s been a nurse for 12 years, remembers Burley talking about his dog in the adult healthcare program.

When Burley called Smith at work, he didn’t know which shelter was in.

“I couldn’t separate the two of them. I just couldn’t,” Smith thought at the time.

She started calling different shelters in the area until she found out that Boomer was at the Rome Humane Society.

“I was a little panicked because I didn’t know how long he had been in the shelter or if he had already been adopted to another family. It’s Christmas time and people get animals,” she said. “I told John I have a 13-year-old dog myself who I’ve had since a puppy, so I fully understand the panic. It made my heart sad for him and Boomer.”

The next day, she drove to the shelter during her lunch break to find Boomer in a large cage in the back. She quickly made sure she could take the dog home. “OK, where are the adoption papers? I’m going to take him home,” she told the staff.

She quickly called Burley to tell him that she found Boomer and that he was okay. A short while later, she drove Boomer home to her house where he started making friends with her dog.

“It was one less worry that John has, and he needs to focus on getting better and taking care of himself and know Boomer is in good hands,” Smith said.

Burley is temporarily living in the rehab part of the healthcare facility. He’s not sure where he’ll live when he gets out, but he plans on reuniting with Boomer as soon as he has a place to stay.

Smith also plans on bringing Boomer to work with her, so Burley can play with the dog.

“It helps John with the healing process and gives him peace of mind,” Smith said.

The other residents love to spend time with Boomer as well.

“There are just so many worries in the world right now. If I can take one worry away from John, that’s the least I can do,” Smith added. “I can’t cure diseases. I’m not a miracle worker … I made a promise to John to take care of Boomer. I will take care of him as long as he needs me to. John knows that. Right now, the focus is on John getting better and taking it one day at a time.”

Burley, who struggles with speech, thanked Smith for saving Boomer. “I love Jennifer,” he said.

“John seeing Boomer, that’s the only Christmas present I need right now,” said Smith. It’s moments like this that inspired her to become a nurse in the first place.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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