Little Levi is less than 1 year old and weighs only 10 pounds, yet it seems like this furry fella holds a lot of power in his little paws.
“It’s brought tears of joy to a lot of the family members and patients; it’s another level that I was unaware of until he entered my life,” said Levi’s owner, Sarah Sibley, a nurse on the Transitional Care Unit of Ecumen in Detroit Lakes.
Sibley has been bringing her little Teddy Bear puppy (he’s literally a Teddy Bear - that is his AKC-certified breed) to work since he was housebroken.
“I work very long 12-hour shifts, and I couldn’t leave him alone for that long, so I asked if I could bring him to work,” said Sibley, who was given the green light. “And our patients just fell in love with him.”
Levi wanders around the TCU, spreading his good cheer to anybody who wants it.
“He’s an attention hog,” laughed Sibley, who says Levi loves his treats and belly rubs and knows exactly which rooms to go to in order to get them. “He’s in heaven here,” she added.
Although Levi is not a certified therapy dog, this little furball seems to have his own credentials built in and knows how to work them.
“I love him; he’s so friendly. He gives me kisses,” said Ecumen resident Art Weiser, who sneaks some bacon in the mornings on the chance he’ll see Levi that day.
“I put it in my napkin and take it for him,” he said, laughing, as his face was getting pummelled with slobbery licks.
Levi doesn’t come every day now, but Sibley sure gets an influx of inquiries when he’s not there.
“I get asked every day, ‘is he here?’” she smiled.
Although the Teddy Bear breed is specifically bred for companionship, Levi seems to have connected to patients and their visiting family members on a much deeper level than simply indulging them with a few wet kisses and a happy expression.
“He’s been by people’s side when they have family members that are passing,” said Sibley, who says families specifically ask for Levi during their loved ones passing. “It brings a little bit of joy into a very emotional and stressful situation.”
Sibley said as a nurse, it gives her and her co-workers joy to help people, so when she sees her puppy spreading his own joy in a way only animals can, it makes her tear up.
“It’s brought tears to other employees’ eyes, and obviously it’s brought tears of joy to a lot of the family members and patients,” said Sibley, who says she believes that when he goes and visits patients, it interrupts the daily grind of recovery that patients in the TCU face. Levi has fallen asleep on many a lap over the past year and has made some good friends.
“He’s a little darling; he’s a lover,” said Harriet Hahn, Ecumen resident, who says there is just something about an animal that brings comfort to people in a way that humans can’t.
“It helps sooth the people,” said Hahn. “I think the good Lord is behind that. People need company, and sometimes people are very lonely.”
Levi will also occasionally make the rounds to the Memory Care Unit and the Long Term Care Unit. Although there are a few residents who don’t necessarily care for dogs, the vast majority love getting their daily dose of Levi.
“He’s not real heavy or cumbersome like some dogs that might be nice but might also accidentally hurt someone who has just had surgery,” said Sandy Lia, fund development director for Ecuman. “The residents are so receptive to dogs.”
It does help, says Sibley, that he is hypoallergenic and is a non-shedding dog.
“He’s cute; he’s just my size,” laughs 102-year-old Ruth Knapp, who stops in the hallway to get a little cuddle from Levi. “He seems so happy and smart.”
“I love him; he’s a sweetheart,” said Deanna Braun, who is at Ecuman recovering from surgery. She is also an Ecuman employee and calls herself Levi’s “grandma.”
“He just brightens everyone’s day because he’s so cuddly and fun,” she said.
Sibly believes he brings comfort to people who are missing their homes during recovery, and often times missing their own dogs at home.
“Makes me happy,” said Charlotte Torgusson, Ecuman resident. “I miss having a dog; everybody does I think in this place. Everybody has a dog someplace, sometime.”