24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Those are the operating hours of Freeman Hospital West, with staff treating hundreds of patients on any given day.
And often, these physicians, nurses, and others see people at their absolute worst with illness, financial stresses, insurance complications, lack of sleep, and the ultimate fear of having to say ‘goodbye’ to a loved one.
But, a program through the Freeman Hospital is providing area volunteers with the chance to put a smile on the faces of staff and patients alike — only, there’s a catch.
Some of these volunteers are four-legged with wagging tails!
Meet Dudley the Therapy Dog, who spends every other Wednesday with his friends at the hospital, old and new alike.
“He’s has an affinity to people,” explained Dot Anthony, the corgi’s owner. “He can walk into a room and just say ‘Hi’ and walk out.”
Dot, who lost her husband in the very same hospital, says that donating her time to the patients and staff helps give her a sense of purpose.
“You walk into people’s room and they say ‘I was just praying for an angel and you brought this dog in.”
The two have a long history of community involvement, beginning volunteering together when the Dudley was only a puppy.
“I volunteer at a hospice and that was one of his first jobs.”
Since then, Dot and Dudley have donated time to local retirement homes, the Joplin Public Library and even victims of the May 2011 tornado.
But, Dot says that even after a decade of service, Dudley never gets tired of making his rounds at the hospital.
“Usually we visit patients in all the waiting rooms, we go to pediatrics, we go to the ICU, we go to the cardio area,” Dot continued. “We also make special visits if anybody asks us to visit. He visits a lot of the staff members. He’s very popular with a lot of the staff.”
Leaving him dog tired at the end of the day.
“We’re usually here for four to 4.5 hours.”
And although Dudley is 11 years old now, he doesn’t let his age stop him from seeing his friends at the hospital.
“He used to do almost every floor in the building, but he has cut back a lot because of his arthritis and his back leg.”
The dog also tore his ACL 6 years ago, but there’s no need to worry. On longer days, the corgi’s visit to the hospital is more like a stroll.
“I put him in the stroller and it’s bed-level, so people can just pet him as we go by,” said Dot. “And he’ll just lay there and let them.”
His favorite patients to visit though, are the ones usually younger than he is.
“I think it really helps with the kids,” said pediatrics RN Shelly Shanks. “Because sometimes, the kids are afraid. Whereas, when they see the dog coming, it always puts a smile on their face.”
“He has a lot of friends here at the hospital,” Dot added.
Though Dot is retired, she says that she and Dudley will always have time for their Freeman family.
“We may go into a room and be in there for forty minutes and it doesn’t bother us. If that’s what they want and the dogs want to lay there with them, then that’s what we do.”