The holidays are generally meant to allow friends, families, and loved ones to gather together and celebrate or commemorate an event or tradition. For one woman, this holiday season would mean more furry friends.
Registered nurse, Jennifer Smith, got an early phone call right after Thanksgiving one morning from John Burley, one of her favorite patients. He was distraught on the phone about his beloved dog, Boomer.
Smith, who has been a nurse for 12 years, has a special bond with her patients and could tell that he was concerned and scared about what would happen to Boomer since he could not properly care for his pet while in the Nursing center.
“I came into work the Monday after Thanksgiving to the phone ringing at 7 a.m.,” Smith told CNN.” Smith told CNN. “John was calling from his hospital room saying, ‘Boomer is in the pound!’ Boomer is in the pound’ Boomer is John’s world.”
Smith had met Burley at the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rome, New York, through its adult day health care program. The program is for patients requiring supervision, but allows them to socialize with others while they receive the proper medical care that they need.
The 60 year-old still had his own apartment where he lived alone with his little mutt, Boomer. Burley had adopted the now 12-year-old senior dog in Arkansas when he was a puppy, and then later moved to New York. Most of Burley’s family still lives in Arkansas, so when he was hospitalized for pneumonia and lung problems, he had no one to take care of his dog.
This is why Burley made the decision to call Smith.
Smith says she formed a friendship with Burley in the adult daycare program, and he would often talk about Boomer. He would often talk about memories and show off pictures of his furry friend.
“I couldn’t separate the two of them. I just couldn’t.” said Smith.
Burley had no idea which shelter Boomer had been taken to. Smith immediately looked up nearby animal shelters. When she called the Rome Humane Society, she had discovered that Boomer had been taken there.
“I was a little panicked because I didn’t know how long he had been in the shelter or if he had already been adopted to another family. It’s Christmas time and people get animals,” said Smith “I told John I have a 13 year-old dog myself who I’ve had since a puppy, so I fully understand the panic. It made my heart sad for him and Boomer.”
Smith took an early lunch the next day at work and drove to the shelter where she was directed to 18-pound Boomer in a large cage in the back. Smith knew at that moment that she was going to take him home.
Although he was not ready to be released from the shelter, Smith immediately called Burley to let him know that she had found Boomer, he was safe, and she would be bringing him home soon. When Boomer was released, he was set up at Smith’s home and ready to make friends with her dog.
“It was one less worry that John has, and he needs to focus on getting better and taking care of himself and know Boomer is in good hands,” Smith said.
Burley is now temporarily living in the rehabilitation wing of the center, and it is uncertain where he will live after he is realized. While he is there, Smith is able to bring Boomer to work with her. She takes him up to Burley’s room a couple times a day so the old pals can be reunited.
Not only does it help John with the healing process, the other residents love Boomer too. Smith says that Burley is proud to show off Boomer as he rides on his lap in the wheelchair.
“There are just so many worries in the world right now. If I can take one worry away from John, that’s the least I can do,” she said. “I can’t cure diseases. I’m not a miracle worker … I made a promise to John to take care of Boomer. I will take care of him as long as he needs me to. John knows that. Right now the focus is on John getting better and taking it one day at a time.”
Smith’s kindness will never be forgotten by Burley, who had one important thing to say about the entire situation: “I love Jennifer.”