When Joe Tasby, a blind Vietnam veteran, checked into a Las Vegas hospital, the former soldier expected to stay just a couple of days. Tasby, who suffers from lung disease and heart arrythmia, was also accompanied by his guide dog Cupid, who helps his human managed his limited visibility and other health conditions.
But just after Tasby was admitted, COVID-19 sent the city’s Southern Hills Hospital into a sudden lockdown. “It was crazy when the hospital went into lockdown,” his nurse, Barbara Borbeck, told CBS News. “We had a hospital full of visitors and people walking the hallways and then all of a sudden, the next day, it was, like, deserted.”
The lockdown was especially stressful for Tasby, who feared that nobody would care for Cupid while he was laid up in bed. Before the closure, the veteran’s daughter, Tiffani, fed and walked the dog during her regular visits. But now visitors weren’t allowed. “I got in the hospital at the time when the pandemic was just starting, all of a sudden I couldn’t get visitors from outside and I had Cupid with me,” Tasby fretted. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
But the veteran need not have worried, because his nurse, Barbara, was a dog-lover at heart. For the next three weeks, the medical-surgical and telemetry director made sure Cupid had everything he needed, including food, walks, and plenty of attention. The dog even got to accompany his new friend on her rotations, which allowed him to meet (and help cheer up) the rest hospital staff.
“She came in first thing every morning and took him for a walk all around the hospital as she did her rounds, made sure he got outside, to get some air and exercise. She made sure he had food and treats,” the grateful veteran told CBS news. “Everything he needed she took care of,” he said.
Barbara took such good care of Cupid that the pup started eagerly awaiting her daily visits. “He really took to her. Sometimes I would see him jumping up and down, and so excited and happy to see her,” Tasby said. “He can usually tell if people have good spirit and no doubt, Barbara has a great spirit.”
The devoted nurse even shopped for dog food when Cupid’s supply ran low, once even traveling 40 miles to find the right brand. “For her to take the time out of her life to find that particular brand of that particular choice of food was just beyond, beyond,” the grateful veteran said. “How do you really express gratitude when somebody steps up and does that for you in a time when it would be really difficult, next to impossible for me to do it.”
Even so, Barbara was happy to help — not only because she is kind, but because she could see how much staff benefitted from having Cupid around. “It was pretty intense here in the hospital and Cupid made the rounds,” she said, explaining how the regular rotation of therapy dogs had been temporarily barred when the hospital went into lockdown. As such, Cupid served as a de facto therapy dog for harried staff comforted by the dog’s soothing presence. Dogs are amazing!