Not many things are as comforting as a therapy dog. But one pup in Greenville, SC brings an extra special aspect to her work visiting sick children at the Shriners Hospital for Children: Harley the yellow lab is blind.
“They all feel like if she can do it, I can do it,” Harley’s owner Rita Harrell told the Greenville News about Harley’s impact on the kids.
Shriners patients are at the hospital for a variety of issues. Some kids are there for a short stay and some, with more serious health issues, are there for a long time or return frequently. Having Harley visit gives kids a lift and helps the sterile hospital feel a little warmer and fuzzier.
Ten-year-old Harley lost her sight five years ago, when she developed glaucoma, according to Harrell. While typically dogs with glaucoma lose their eyesight over time, in Harley’s case it was literally overnight. In order to spare the dog the increasing pain from the pressure build up that comes from the disease, Harley’s vet recommended removing Harley’s eyes. Although Harrell was hesitant at first, she knew in her heart that was best for her dog.
And she was right. Harrell told the Greenville News that ever since the surgery that eliminated her painful condition, Harley’s acted like a puppy. “Her tail’s always wagging. She’s happy all the time.”
Harrell thought Harley might be a good therapy dog and enrolled her in training. Soon they were visiting hospitals and Harley had a natural gift for bringing smiles to the patients. The sweet dog knows just what each patient needs – whether it’s a snuggle or a bit of entertainment with a trick. Sometimes she even helps motivate kids in physical therapy.
Above all, Harley helps inspire the kids and reminds them that physical challenges don’t have to limit them.
Patient Maryann Jarnagin told The Greenville News how amazing it is that Harley can do all she does, even though she’s blind. “It does show that no matter what, you can get through anything.”