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Hospital Happenings

News | July 28, 2023

BJACH celebrates the Dog Days of Summer with the Defense Health Agency

By Jean Graves, Medical Readiness Command, West

The Defense Health Agency hosted a Dog Days of Summer campaign July 24-28, to showcase facility dogs at military medical treatment facilities across the enterprise. Each medical entity with dogs working in their facilities shared stories, photos, and videos of the animals and the important role they play in the health and lives of their patients and staff.

Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson, Louisiana, does not have any facility dogs, but that did not stop Soldiers and staff from participating in the campaign.
Throughout the week photos and stories of dogs owned by staff members were posted on the hospital’s social media page.

Capt. James Walker, hospital chaplain, submitted a photo of his dog, Scout, his four-year-old Golden Doodle.

“Dogs are like little mood boosters in hospitals,” he said. “They provide emotional support to patients and staff, which helps ease anxiety and stress levels. Their playful and friendly nature can even bring smiles to people's faces, giving them a temporary break from their worries. Even seeing photos of your colleagues' dogs on Facebook can boost morale. It's really cool how much of a difference they can make in a hospital environment.”

Lt. Col. Ashley L. Maltezlaurieti, deputy installation director of psychological health for JRTC and Fort Johnson said her dogs mean the world to her and her spouse.

Maltezlaurieti, a neuro psychologist, said that pets have a positive impact on the physical and psychological health of their humans.

“Dogs provide a profound source of emotional support, companionship, and unconditional love,” she said. “There is just nothing like being greeted by your favorite canine when you come home at the end of the day.”

Maltezlaurieti said studies suggest that a relationship with a dog can nurture or bolster relationships with other people.

“Personally, thinking about my own dogs has helped me get through difficult moments,” she said. “For example, recently while attending Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school at Fort Novosel, Alabama, I was tired, wet, and hungry. I was drudging through a thick forest for days. Despite the miserable conditions, I kept telling myself every step is one step closer to my dogs and my wife. When I told myself that, I felt a shift from being just plain tired and irritable to feeling a renewed sense of determination and purpose.”

The BJACH Facebook page featured nearly 30 posts of dogs submitted by Soldiers and staff. Everyone, including the hospital and dental commander, and representatives from almost every department, shared photos, videos, and stories of the important role dogs play in their lives.

Danielle Averitt, a diagnostic medical sonographer, said her dogs are more than pets, they are family.

“Pixie and Rex put a smile on my face when I walk through the door after a long day of work,” she said. “They make me happy with their unconditional love and companionship.”

Alley Hess, contact representative for the integrated disability and evaluation system said her dogs provide emotional support to her and her spouse.

“I have two dogs, Annie, a seven-year-old Catahoula cur and a one-year-old Australian Sheppard named Apollo,” she said. “My husband and I are both veterans who saw combat while deployed. Our dogs can sense when we are having an off day. They are loveable and always know how to brighten our spirits with kisses or just laying nearby. Honestly, we need them in our lives just as much as they need us.”

Marisol Lopez, a physical evaluation board liaison officer, said her French Bulldog, Cali Marie is a huge part of her life.

“She provides me with unconditional love,” she said. “When I cry, she is there to lick my tears away. When I’m happy, she is happy. She brings so much joy and laughter to my life.”

Lopez said Cali is bilingual and understands both English and Spanish.

“She is my confidante; she keeps all my secrets,” she said.

Every dog shared is unique, different breeds, different colors, and all ages. Each beloved by their owners. Members of the BJACH team have been chattering through the hallways about the Dog Days of Summer Campaign illustrating just how much dogs do contribute to the overall well-being of humans. Some employees have even suggested doing a “cat naps” version for a fall campaign to highlight feline family members.

DHA facility dogs include Beasley, an American Red Cross volunteer at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He is one of four basset hounds who visit their hospital several times each month to boost the morale and reduce stress of both patients and staff.

At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland, Elle Mae and Sgt. Major Truman are just two dogs who spend their days bringing joy to the sick and recovering service members in our nation’s capital. They also enjoy spending time with their human colleagues during their rounds.

Maj. Budd and Maj. McAffee are two four-legged staff members at Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. These K9 Air Force officers work full time in the facility. According to their commissioning oath they are charged with comforting and cheering on others, bringing smiles to the humans, and providing professional development and well-being to their handlers.

Getting a dog can be a big responsibility and a decision that should not be taken lightly. Adopting a dog should be a lifelong commitment.

Betty Beinkemper, chief, Army Housing Office, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Johnson, Louisiana said there are rules and restrictions when it comes to pets living on post.

“Corvias, the Fort Johnson privatized housing contractor, has a policy of two pets per household, unless the animal is a registered service or emotional support animal,” she said. “All pets must be registered within five days of arrival. Pet registration includes a signed pet addendum included with lease, a photo of the pet and certification from the veterinarian on post.”

Beinkemper said there are some basic restrictions for service or emotional support animals and they require additional documentation.

An animal shelter located just outside of Fort Johnson in Leesville, Louisiana has dogs and cats available for adoption every day.

Marianne Sumney, lead technician at the shelter, said adopting a dog from their organization is an opportunity to save two lives.

“You’re not only saving the dog you are taking home,” she said. “By freeing up kennel space at the shelter you are also giving another animal more time to find a loving home.”

Sumney said there is a flat $40 adoption fee, unless the animal has been in the facility more than 30 days, then that fee is waived.

“Louisiana law requires all animals adopted from our facility be spayed or neutered,” she said. “If an animal is not spayed or neutered by the time they leave the shelter, we have vouchers to alleviate the majority of the cost associated with that surgery.”

George Carlin, an American stand-up comedian, actor, and author once said, “life is a series of dogs.”

He said, dogs are the secret of life and that dog lovers will continue to get dogs even after a dog they love dies. This comedy monologue alludes to the powerful impact dogs have on humans during their very short lives.

A little boy, after learning his dog was dying explained it best in a 2018 story that went viral (https://www.goodthingsguy.com/opinion/why-dogs-live-shorter-lives/), “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right? Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay for as long as we do,” he said.

Editor’s Note: To enjoy BJACH Dog Days of Summer posts follow them on social media at: www.facebook.com/BayneJonesACH.
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