The monthly visits from Tucker, an emotional support dog, have been a big hit at North County Dialysis Center, according to Tom Gowen, the nurse manager at the facility.
“Our team had been brainstorming for ways to keep our patients engaged when the idea of a therapy support dog came up,” says Tom. It was the perfect suggestion. “One of the struggles of any long term endeavor is to find ways to refresh and recommit. Many of us spend more time in this center than we do with some members of our own family.” It made sense that a dog’s warm snuggles and cold nose would help break up the long hours that patients and staff alike spend in the dialysis center.
Chala Walsh, a social worker at the dialysis center knew just where to find such a dog. “I am an avid dog lover, thus when Tom discussed having an emotional support dog visit our clinic I was thrilled,” she says. “I instantly thought of Tucker as I met him previously when I worked at Christian Hospital.”
The dialysis center reached out to Tucker and his fur momma, Katie Eisenbeis, and they came for their first visit in September, 2019. “While many patients liked it, to my surprise the staff seemed to get as much from Tucker’s visit as the patients did!” says Tom.
It’s no surprise that the staff took to Tucker. He currently “works” (and has his own office) at Christian Hospital, where he is the therapy dog specifically for the hospital’s employees.
When Katie adopted Tucker three years ago from the Humane Society of Missouri, he was a very high energy puppy. Katie, then a paramedic at Christian Hospital, kept Tucker occupied by running with him. “A lot of running!” she says. But as with most high-energy dogs, they do best if their exercise is both physical and mental, so Katie started the process of Tucker becoming a therapy dog to keep him stimulated.
Soon thereafter, Katie was promoted to clinical supervisor of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) at Christian Hospital. The chief of EMS knew of Tucker’s therapy training and asked if Tucker could be the emotional support dog for the EMS. Katie said “YES” and she and Tucker completed the Canine Good Citizen Dog Certification, a requirement of the hospital.
Originally, the EMS crews and other staff members took Tucker to his office so that they could decompress from a bad call, or simply spend time with him if they were just having a bad day.
Now, however, Tucker is known across the hospital and is available to help not only EMS members, but all staff members throughout the hospital. “We have spent a lot time down in the emergency department for the nurses as well,” says Katie. “He also attends the debriefings that we do in our EMS academy with students.”
The staff and patients at the North County Dialysis Center consider themselves lucky. Theirs is the only external facility that Katie and Tucker visit!
“Not only does Tucker bring comfort and joy to our patients, but also the employees,” says Chala. “His visits are something we all look forward to each month.”
See the Division of Nephrology’s Facebook page for more pictures of Tucker and Katie and their visits to the dialysis center.