HUNTINGTON, NY – Hazel, a 3-year-old golden retriever, returned to Huntington Hospital Monday to support frontline workers. It was the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic that the therapy dog and her dog handler Gary Zelner were able to go to the hospital, according to a press release from the hospital.
Hospital officials decided to re-admit Hazel and Zelner earlier this month after a particularly daunting day in the intensive care unit.
With her calm and reassuring demeanor, Hazel’s presence is a source of great joy for the staff, according to the hospital. Hazel knows her way around the hospital hallways; as well as the hearts of the employees.
“Caring for our employees is just as important as caring for our patients. We will do everything we can to improve morale and prevent burnout,” said Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of Huntington Hospital. “Having Hazel and Gary back for staff visits was an obvious choice to bring smiles under the masks.”
Hazel provides a welcome respite for Huntington’s Hospital staff and an opportunity to take a deep breath, stand back for a few minutes, relax, and think about something other than patient care, the hospital said.
Hazel, a certified therapy dog, has been attending the hospital since she was a child, according to Zelner.
“We were sad when volunteers had to stop coming to the hospital because of the pandemic, but now that we are allowed to return, we see this as a sign that things are slowly returning to normal,” he said on release. “We are excited about the future and look forward to visiting patients again at some point.”
Huntington Hospital has had a therapy dog program for six years. Hazel and Mr. Zelner plan to visit the hospital about once a week from here.
Hazel, a 3-year-old therapy dog, visited Huntington Hospital staff Monday (Photo credit: Northwell Health)