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Therapy Dog Uses FaceTime to Comfort Hospital Patients

April 20, 2020

A second-year medical student has been using technology to bring joy to healthcare workers with her dog, according to Yahoo news.

Caroline Benzel and Loki, a two-year-old Rottweiler therapy dog, are giving remote therapy dog visits using FaceTime. Loki is a two-year-old Rottweiler therapy dog at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), where Benzel also studies.

They would usually FaceTime patients and tell them to imagine that they’re outside the hospital.

Benzel describes Loki as a “natural at her job,” whom she trained since she was 18 weeks old. “I’ve never met a dog that’s so empathetic. It’s kind of strange. There have been many circumstances at the hospital where she can just read a situation where a patient is in a very bad way or a family member is going through a loss,” she said.

Highly requested by hospitals

In an Instagram Post, Benzel said, “from the nurses and social workers who directly message me to come visit their patients who need a little extra TLC, to the times when we are losing someone and they want us to help them transition to their next life more easily.”

They noticed that face masks were not helping the front-liners. Benzel said, “I was seeing the masks doing the damage to the nursing staff, the doctors, the social workers, because everyone, custodians to doctors are all required to wear it,” Benzel said. This prompted Benzel to make care packages called Hero Healing Kits.

Physical and emotional help

Each Hero Healing Kit contains a hypoallergenic lotion and medicated powder (for skin prone to irritation), gum packs (for dry mouth), Vaseline, tea and coffee packets, and chapstick.

The kit is also a way for Benzel to give back to the community after helping her financially with Loki’s Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury in the past.

“I didn’t know how I was going to come up with that kind of money as a medical student. The hospital staff [at UMMC] suggested I do a GoFundMe, and the whole surgery and physical therapy ended up being covered by donations within two weeks,” she said to Yahoo News.

Benzel wanted to repay the favor and showed her how much she and Loki cares for the system.


Pay it forward

Benzel is not just giving people at UMMC a reason to smile. It has also inspired other people to do the same, such as a medical student from Philadelphia who started the Hero Healing Initiative there.

She has expanded and created kits for other hospitals, too, with a total of 1,400 Hero Healing Kits and $400 raised by medical students.

Prior to the pandemic, Loki went to hospitals in a custom-made white coat whenever she would visit patients. Due to the lockdown, Benzel and Loki are unable to visit hospitals. They can only meet their clients online.

That hasn’t stopped the duo from doing good during the pandemic. They have assembled nearly 2,000 kits with the help of others. “

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