(CNN) — It was just after Thanksgiving that RN Jennifer Smith received an early morning phone call from John Burley, one of her favorite patients. He was distraught over his beloved dog, Boomer.
“I got to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving and the phone rang at 7:00 am,” Smith told CNN. “John was calling from his hospital room saying, ‘Boomer is in the kennel!’ ‘Boomer is in the kennel!’, Boomer is John’s world. “
Smith, who has been a nurse for 12 years, said she could tell he was worried and also scared about what would happen to Boomer.
“He took a deep breath and asked, ‘Will you take care of Boomer?’ And I said, ‘Of course John. I’ll find Boomer and take care of him for you,’ “Smith told CNN.
Smith had met Burley at the nursing and rehab center Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rome, New York, through its adult day health care program, which is for patients who require supervision and which allows them to socialize with others while receiving medical care.
The 60-year-old still had his own apartment where he lived alone with his little stray dog. Burley had adopted the 12-year-old dog from Arkansas when he was a puppy and later moved to New York. Most of his family still lives in Arkansas, so when he was hospitalized for pneumonia and lung problems, he had no one to care for his dog. Nobody except Smith.
Smith says he formed a friendship with Burley on the adult show and that he often talked about Boomer, showing photos of his furry companion. “He couldn’t separate the two of them. He just couldn’t.”
Burley didn’t know which shelter Boomer was in. Smith immediately searched nearby animal shelters and when he called the Rome Humane Society, he discovered that he had been taken there.
“I was a bit panicked because I didn’t know how long I had been in the shelter or if I had already been adopted by another family. It’s Christmas and people are getting animals,” he said. “I told John that I myself have a 13-year-old dog that I’ve had since I was a puppy, so I completely understand the panic. My heart went down for him and for Boomer.”
The next day he ate his early lunch and drove to the shelter where he found 8-pound Boomer in a large cage in the back. Smith said, “Okay, where are the adoption papers? I’ll take it home.”
Although he was not ready to be released from the shelter, Smith immediately called Burley to inform him that he had found Boomer, that he was fine, and would be taking him home soon. A short time later, Boomer moved into Smith’s home and befriended his dog.
“It was one less worry than John had, and he needs to focus on getting better and taking care of himself and knowing that Boomer is in good hands,” Smith said.
Burley now lives temporarily in the rehab wing of the center. It is not known where he will live after he is discharged. But while she’s there, Smith can take Boomer to work with her. She takes him to Burley’s room a few times a day. “It helps John with the healing process and gives him peace of mind,” Smith said.
The other residents love Boomer too. Smith says Burley is proud to show Boomer as he rides on his lap in the wheelchair. They smile and caress it.
“There are so many worries in the world right now. If I can take a worry off John, that’s the least I can do,” he said. “I can’t cure disease. I’m not a miracle worker … I made a promise to John to take care of Boomer. I will take care of him for as long as he needs me. John knows it. Right now the focus is on John getting better and getting better. I took it one day at a time. “
Smith’s kindness has not gone unnoticed. Burley, who struggles a bit with speech, had something important to say: “I love Jennifer.”
“John watching Boomer, that’s the only Christmas present I need right now,” said Smith, who unsurprisingly said she pursued a career in nursing so she could help people.
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A nurse rescues a hospitalized patient’s dog