‘Hero’ service dog gets sendoff party after comforting hospital staff during pandemic

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DENVER (KDVR) — Emergency room staff at Rose Medical Center in Denver had a bittersweet sendoff for one of their most special team members Thursday. 

Wynn, a service dog in training, brought comfort to the staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Her story gained national attention thanks to a viral post in March.

“In the beginning, it was really overwhelming. There was a palpable sense of fear, and we didn’t know what we were going to see,” said Dr. Susan Ryan, an emergency physician and volunteer puppy raiser with Canine Companions for Independence.

Ryan raised Wynn for nearly two years knowing she would eventually go on to more advanced training in her path toward becoming a service dog. 

On Thursday, Wynn was scheduled for “turn-in.” Staff in the emergency department came together to celebrate Wynn one last time. Some made signs calling Wynn a “hero.”

“We all witnessed a lot this year. We had incredible camaraderie, we were the best team I ever imagined being around, and she was part of our team — she saw us through,” said Ryan. “People would just pet her and break out into a smile when it was just the hardest day.”

Wynn’s future training with Canine Companions for Independence will determine what type of service dog she’ll become. Ryan said that could mean anything from helping a veteran with PTSD to a child with special needs or being a facility dog in a setting like a courthouse or hospital.

“It’s a proud moment, and it’s a sad moment,” said Ryan. “She taught me how to stay present in the worst year of our lives, and that’s a pretty big lesson.”

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