Recently, Honor Marie was able to visit the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
During the pandemic, Honor found herself at home, cutoff from her beloved job and people. She dreamed about the day she would see them again, get a pat on the head, scratch behind the ear, and maybe even a treat or two.
Honor is a 4-year old Golden Retriever, who proudly holds the position of Facility Dog at the medical center. That is where, pre-pandemic, you would typically find her alongside her handler and caretaker, Terri Woodworth, the administrative officer for Social Work Service.
Special visit to information desk for treat
On March 14, she walked in through the main entrance and greeted every Veteran she passed, bringing smile after smile to their faces. She remembered her friend Chris Buckmaster at the Information Desk always had a treat for her, so she made sure to stop there before heading to her office for the day.
VA staff Holly Ehrlich and Elizabeth Albright were happy to see Honor during her latest visit, too. Honor loves VA staff just as much as they love her.
Honor can’t wait to get back to work bringing joy to Veterans
Due to ongoing infection control concerns, there were limitations to this visit, but she was available to anyone who wanted to drop by and see her.
Honor has been a dedicated member of the Eastern Oklahoma VA team since 2018, shortly after Woodworth adopted her.
Missing a paw from injury at birth
“I was speaking to a local organization about VA services when I was told about Honor,” said Woodworth. “They told me she was being trained as a service dog. However, she would never be allowed to be a normal service dog because of an injury she suffered at birth, which left her missing a paw.”
After Woodworth adopted Honor, she completed service dog handler training with her. That’s when the idea to let Honor use her training at the VA medical center as a facility dog came to life. Facility dogs are specifically selected for their soft disposition, mild temperament, and are extensively trained in obedience and working commands.
Before COVID, Honor would visit Veterans upon request and make regular visits to units, such as the chemotherapy/infusion clinic, inpatient mental health and hospice/palliative care.
“She just provides a big boost in morale,” said Woodworth. “Honor really helped our Veterans over the hump of being in the hospital. She gave them the extra motivation they needed to get well! She would often get up on the therapy beds with them while they worked. She would also play ball or just crawl up in a chair and watch TV with them. Other times, she just laid on the floor while Veterans had deep conversations with her. It just helped to break up the monotony of a hospital stay.”
Currently, Honor is only providing special visits, but hopefully that will change as pandemic protocols ease over time.
“We want to ensure all Veterans and employees that Honor and her family will stay safe and heathy,” said Woodworth. “But she can’t wait to get back to work bringing joy to her Veterans again.”