Comfort dog brings smiles, comfort to local hospital staff battling against COVID-19

CLEAR LAKE – There is a special greeter just outside of HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake, and she has four paws.

3-year-old Joy is the chief comfort officer. She is the result of a partnership with Joy Comfort Dog and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church & Lutheran Church Charities.

“She comes and the nurses absolutely love her,” said Lisa Welty, the Director of Nursing Excellence at HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake.

In the middle of a pandemic, this golden retriever is helping to lift the spirits and provide emotional support for hospital staff.

”It just makes people happy. Her name is totally perfect for her," said Welty.

“Everyone’s like okay, ‘I’m going to go downstairs and sneak downstairs.’ That’s what I just did, I heard the dog was here and I came,” said nurse Maggie Carter.

The veteran comfort dog has trained for thousands of hours and has responded to several crisis situations across Texas, including the mass shootings in Santa Fe, El Paso and Midland.

Joy’s latest job though is to help bring smiles and provide comfort to first responders on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

“All the medical people that are working, we know that it’s hard times right now. So to be able to help in someway brings joy to our team as well,” said Stephanie Knea, with Joy Comfort Dog Ministry and Lutheran Church Charities.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, for now, Joy is only greeting staff at the employee entrance of the hospital. The hopes are in the very near future Joy eventually be inside and also helping patients along with their families.

”You know dogs just make people happy. It made me happy. It was very nice to see," said Carter.

“They all talk about her. I think that all the nurses know who Joy is in our hospital, and they’re so excited for that,” said Welty.

About the Author:

Galveston-born, award-winning journalist, dog owner, foodie & occasional golfer.