SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A yellow Labrador retriever bred to be a service dog has “changed careers” and is still on her mission to help others in Sarasota.
Sophie is a 2-year-old pup, bred at Palmetto’s Southeastern Guide Dogs to become a service dog. A problem with her optic nerve stopped her from being able to serve.
Sophie was adopted by Carol Sanders and her family, who knew she needed to continue her mission to help others.
Visitors to Serenity Place, the behavioral health unit at HCA Florida Sarasota Doctors Hospital, have been restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nurses know patients need visitors to help with recovery and if humans can’t visit, perhaps man’s best friend can fill the void,” a representative from the hospital said in a press release.
“Visitors help with healing and reduce the anxiety of being in the hospital. Our patients all test negative for COVID-19 before they can be admitted and because they are in group settings, we have to take extra precautions,” said Janice McKendrick, MSN, RN Director of Behavioral Health at Sarasota Doctors Hospital. “We needed a way to still include visitors and that’s when Sophie came to the rescue.”
Sophie and Sanders visit the unit once or twice a week. The hospital said on a recent visit, Sophie visited a group therapy room and snuggled with patients, pausing for kisses and back rubs.
The pup leaves rooms full of laughter and smiles when she visits therapy sessions. Despite her medical condition, Sophie is still able to help.
“Sophie couldn’t be a service dog, so she had a career change. As soon as we pull into the parking lot of the hospital her tail starts wagging,” said Sanders. “She gets her joy from making others happy.”