May 18, 2024

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Therapy dog helps sick Florida animal shelter director: FB

After going to a hospital for a heart condition, a Florida animal shelter director was cared for by a therapy dog from his shelter, according to a Facebook post.

After going to a hospital for a heart condition, a Florida animal shelter director was cared for by a therapy dog from his shelter, according to a Facebook post.

Screengrab from Suncoast Animal League Facebook post

When a Florida animal shelter director fell ill, one of the organization’s rescue dogs came to his aid at a hospital, according to a Facebook post.

After his health took “a turn for the worse” on Sept. 11, Rick Chaboudy, executive director and co-founder of the no-kill shelter Suncoast Animal League in Palm Harbor, went to the hospital to get checked out, he said in a Sept. 19 post. He was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, also known as afib, which is when someone has an irregular, often rapid heart rhythm, according to Mayo Clinic.

The hospital staff told Chaboudy he was lucky to come in before something serious happened to him, he said, and he was sent to the cardiology area for more tests.

Through all the doctor visits, Chaboudy’s concerns weren’t just about himself — they were also about his two dogs, Wally and Joey, the post says.

His friends found others to care for his companions while Chaboudy was being treated, the post says.

“I get daily reports of playtime, pup ice cream and snacking events like ‘pizza night.’ Turns out Wally is NOT a fan of strawberries, bananas and mangos,” Chaboudy said in the post.

But even in the absence of his two dogs, Chaboudy wasn’t alone in his hospital room for long.

A therapy dog named Hugo, who was a rescue at Suncoast Animal League, began to help Chaboudy during his recovery by keeping him company.

Along with two other therapy dogs from Suncoast Animal League, Hugo has helped people through their struggles in a variety of locations, the post says, such as schools, domestic abuse centers and an airport. The dogs “take their jobs of comforting and soothing very seriously,” Chaboudy said, which he’s now experienced firsthand.

“I have heard the stories, seen them in action from the outside, but I have never ‘seen it from the other side,’” Chaboudy said in the post.

Chaboudy’s relationship with Hugo transcends the time spent with him in the hospital. He’s known Hugo since he was a “puppy that could not walk,” Chaboudy said in the post, and over the last two and half years, he’s “watched him grow as a therapy dog.” Hugo would also spend some weekends with Chaboudy over the past few years.

Excitement for Hugo’s arrival isn’t just coming from Chaboudy — much of the hospital staff looks forward to his visits too.

“His appeal and goodwill spread as wide as the signature smile he wears on his own face. And so I knew the moment Hugo had arrived on my floor even before I saw him as the hallways were abuzz with chatter!” Chaboudy said in the post.

Since his initial post, Chaboudy posted an update about his 15-days-and-counting hospital stay in a Sept. 26 Facebook post. In that time, he was sent to a different hospital for treatment with Hugo following close behind.

Chaboudy started a “heart healthy diet” while in the hospital, he said, and Hugo has “skillfully managed” to keep Chaboudy on the right track by taking bites of the food he should avoid.

“Hugo’s exuberant happiness keeps a smile on my face and the nurses and other patients. Plus, my doctors are happy when I follow their orders to exercise by rolling Hugo around the hospital floor,” Chaboudy said in the post.

Palm Harbor is about 25 miles northwest of Tampa.

Profile Image of Makiya Seminera

Makiya Seminera is a national real-time reporter for McClatchy News. She graduated from the University of Florida in May 2023. She previously was a politics reporting intern at The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, and The State in Columbia, South Carolina. She also served as editor-in-chief of UF’s student-run newspaper The Independent Florida Alligator in 2022.