Healing Unconditionally

Healing Unconditionally

Healthcare is full of so many individuals whose compassion and love shine through when they are providing bedside care, assisting a patient during surgery or a procedure, or greeting patients at the doctor’s office or hospital. But humans are not the only ones that can provide that feeling of hope, love, and comfort. Our canine friends do this every day, unconditionally, and Rockledge Regional Medical Center’s (RRMC) canine volunteer, Bee Bee, is no exception.

Bee Bee, known to many as the red dog, is a 13-year-old red, golden retriever and is a nationally certified therapy dog. She has her own employee identification badge and on occasion, has been known to dress in scrubs. This wonderful companion has been offering comfort, healing, and love to patients at RRMC since 2014.

Bee Bee is Rochelle Kenyon’s pride and joy. Keyon obtained Bee Bee from a golden retriever rescue in Jacksonville when she was two years old. She was from a family of pure breads but the owners had five dogs and were not able to keep them all. Kenyon was blessed to be able to claim Bee Bee as her own. “My husband had been home on hospice and as soon as Bee Bee came into the front door, she went immediately to my husband’s room, jumped onto the bed and laid across his legs, never leaving his side,” said Kenyon. “At that point, I knew Bee Bee was special.”

Bee Bee stayed with Kenyon’s husband until he took his last breath and when he died, experienced grief hiding herself in a closet and shaking for hours after. Kenyon’s thoughts of Bee Bee were reaffirmed and she knew for sure that Bee Bee needed a job at a pet therapy dog and started the process to get her certified.

“Due to Bee Bee’s innate nature to care for others,” explains Kenyon, Bee Bee’s owner, “she did not need the first step of a training program. She was naturally calm, gentle and caring.”

Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic a certified therapy dog must possess is a calm temperament. The dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle and at ease in a variety of situations, but the key to being a successful therapy dog is for the dog to thoroughly enjoy human contact. Being cuddled and pet by unfamiliar people is an important requirement to hold the certification of therapy dog. These were all qualities inherently evident in Bee Bee.

According to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a therapy dog can be any mix or breed of dog and must be at least one year of age. The dog must be friendly, well-mannered, well-trained, and always remain under the control of the handler. Once this criterion has been established, a tester or observer in the area will test the dog and the owner to make sure the qualities mentioned are displayed. After the handling portion of the test, the owner and dog are supervised by the tester or observer during three visits with residents at medical facilities. When the handler and the dog have passed the observations, and paperwork has been submitted through the AKC or working with organizations such as the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, the owner and the dog become a therapy team. After working with the administration of hospitals, nursing homes, and schools the dog can help bring joy to others.

“We went through the handling portion of the certification as well as the observation, attending places like nursing homes and senior care facilities,” explains Kenyon. “We became certified, joined the Space Coast Therapy Dogs and Bee Bee was going to nursing homes, schools and libraries on a regular basis, even having her own program called “Read to a Dog.”

Bee Bee is known to a great many at Rockledge Regional Medical Center. She has been known to enter the cardiac waiting room giving comfort to an anxious patient about to undergo a procedure, sitting on the floor with them relieving their fears, to entering the main waiting area of the hospital and dropping her head in their lap of a stranger. Bee Bee’s natural tendency to comfort and heal caught the attention of a seriously ill patient. “On one visit to the floors of the hospital, Bee Bee insisted on going into a patient’s room and the patient had been asleep for a long time.” explains Kenyon. “The family had told us the patient has not woken up and they feared the worst, and maybe the visit was not the best idea. I attempted to pull Bee Bee back but she insisted on going to the patient’s bedside. She immediately placed her head under the patient’s hand and stared moving her head back and forth. After a few minutes the patient awoke and said – ‘What a beautiful dog.’ After that, Bee Bee became locally famous. She was asked to attend the patient’s church for one of their scheduled services. Bee Bee spent time walking up and down the aisle offering love and comfort to many.”

“When BeeBee and I began working at Rockledge Regional Medical Center which was then known as Wuesthoff, there were ten nationally certified therapy dogs also working there, just in a different capacity than BeeBee,” explains Kenyon. “Bee Bee is the last remaining therapy dog and we all know that Bee Bee must do what her heart tells her to do. Everyone she meets feels her calmness and healing and I could not be prouder.”

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