As we near the one year mark of when COVID-19 began picking up steam and making an immense impact on the world, it may be easy to forget those who have served us. Though as individuals, and as families, we’ve all had our moments of heartbreak and fear, healthcare workers at every level have put their lives and mental health on the line as they faced a new, terrifying virus head on. Dr. Susan Ryan knows all too well the hardship that working in a hospital during the coronavirus pandemic may bring, and thanks one special team member for getting her through it.
Dr. Ryan is an emergency physician at Rose Medical Center in Denver, as well as a volunteer puppy raiser with Canine Companions for Independence, or CCI. CCI is a “non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships.”
She has been raising service dog Wynn for nearly two years now, and many members of the hospital staff have grown dependent on her comfort during these frightening times. “In the beginning, it was really overwhelming,” Dr. Ryan said. “There was a palpable sense of fear, and we didn’t know what we were going to see.”
Dr. Ryan shared a photo in March of 2020, at the start of the pandemic, showing her and Wynn resting on the floor of the hospital during what we can only imagine was a physically and emotionally exhausting day. Although Wynn has been an incredible source of support for Dr. Ryan and her coworkers, it is time to say goodbye. Wynn is needed back at CCI where she will continue her graduate training to become a service dog for someone in need.
And so, this past Thursday, members of the emergency staff at Dr. Ryan’s hospital gathered for one final farewell, where many made cards and signs calling Wynn a hero. “We all witnessed a lot this year,” Dr. Ryan explained through tears. “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. People would just pet her and break out into a smile when it was just the hardest day.”
Goodbyes are always tough, especially when it’s to a furry member of the family that has gotten you through so much. But Dr. Ryan always knew this was Wynn’s next step and is looking forward to seeing her grow into the amazing, intelligent support dog that someone out there needs. “It’s a proud moment, and it’s a sad moment,” continued Dr. Ryan. “She taught me how to stay present in the worst year of our lives, and that’s a pretty big lesson.”
Wynn will continue her training with CCI, where they will determine what type of service work best suits her. She may be assigned a child with special needs, a veteran suffering with PTSD, or work in facility support at a courthouse or even another hospital. As a final farewell, Dr. Ryan took to Facebook once more where she wrote, “Two years ago I started to raise this pup for Canine Companions. Today I hand the leash back to them to continue her journey to be someone’s assistance dog. Proud. Sad. Grateful. THIS is full throttle living.”
To follow along with Wynn’s journey, as well as the other adorable service pups, be sure to check out Canine Companions of Independence’s official website! To catch a glimpse at the type of service work these dogs provide, watch the video below!