Sky’s journey begins with a golden retriever named Malibu.
It was Thanksgiving 2020, and TriStar Skyline’s CEO, Dustin Greene, was spending it without his family. They had gone to the beach, as was their family’s tradition. But it had been a tough year for healthcare workers, and Dustin didn’t feel right about leaving his staff.
“It was the first big wave of the pandemic, which was traumatic for our staff. They were traumatized. They were in despair. They were exhausted. And our patients were incredibly sick,” he recalls.
On a whim, he took their older golden retriever, Malibu, to the hospital with him to make the rounds. Malibu once served as a therapy dog and resumed the role easily.
“I saw smiles that I had not seen in months,” Dustin says. “People who literally were in despair — and were tearful, crying, emotional and exhausted — were on the floor cuddling with this golden retriever.”
Dustin began taking Malibu to the hospital intermittently after that. A few weeks later, an intensive care unit nurse alerted Dustin to a patient with a serious head injury. The teen had been in an ATV crash and had been nonverbal for longer than a week.
“He was about the same age as my son at the time, so it was particularly personal for me,” Dustin recalls.
He began talking to the patient, introducing himself and Malibu, whose chin was resting on the bed.
“This kid begins petting his head. And this young boy, he leans up, and with a very slow and almost broken speech cadence, he said, ‘Wow. Malibu has big feet.’ And literally, you could hear a pin drop in the room. And then Mom began to cry. That was a turning point in this young boy’s clinical journey.”
It was also a turning point in bringing a permanent therapy dog to TriStar Skyline. Dustin found Sky and began taking the puppy to the hospital for short visits to build his stamina. They now go to work together a few times a week.