Hospital Allows Terminally Ill Patient’s Dog to Come for a Visit

When Bubba was handed to James he started to cry, and then Bubba started to snuggle James.

Hospitals usually don’t allow pets inside their walls, unless they are service dogs, but Baptist Hospital in Corbin, Ky., allowed Bubba, a house pet, to come visit his terminally ill owner, James Wathern, after the elderly man stopped eating.

Photo Credit: Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter
Photo Credit: Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter

Wathern has been at the hospital for over six weeks, and during all this time he has been away from his beloved, one-eyed Chihuahua. The pet was turned over to Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter (KWAS) and since then, Bubba has been living in a loving foster home.

Hospital social workers became worried for Wathern when he lost all interest in food and his emotional health declined drastically. Hospital workers asked the dying man if there was anything they could do for him, and as a dying wish, Wathern asked to see his dog one more time. What happened next was unexpected.

“When Bubba was handed to James he started to cry, and then Bubba started to snuggle James,” said Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter.

The pet’s visit uplifted the dying man’s spirit so much that Wathern began eating and has regained some strength.

“[The emotional reunion] makes you realize that animals are not just pets they are loved ones,” said KWAS.

Baptist Hospital is considering revising their policy to allow visits from pets. Bubba and Wathern have many scheduled visits in their future.

Watch the emotional hospital reunion here.

180 thoughts on “Hospital Allows Terminally Ill Patient’s Dog to Come for a Visit

  1. So heartwarming but stating the obvious that the hospital and everyone should know. Pets ARE Family and Loved Ones and of course you want to see them. I would insist on seeing mine.

  2. Let pets in. As far as I’ve seen, most dogs are cleaner than a lot of the people I transport to hospital in my ambulance.

  3. It’s documented that stroking a pet has positive health benefits. I don’t know of a single animal lover that wouldn’t feel better with their pet around.

  4. He is not just a dog. He is family. My Mackey is my family. He is there to comfort me. When I am feeling alone he will jump into my lap and snuggle with me. It has to awful to part with his buddy and be in the hospital.

  5. That’s cool.I wish could’ve seen my two dogs while I was in the hospital for A few months.He deserved to see his dog and that guy was his dogs life.

  6. The VA hospital in Saginaw, MI allowed me to bring my pup to see my dad. One of the nurses even brought him treats.

  7. When I was in ICU I cried because I missed my dog so much and wanted to go home to see him, the nurse and my husband surprised me when I had one of my walks outside of the hospital and brought my dog around the parking lot so I can see and pet him…. And man that made me feel so much better

  8. This should be the rule all over. Look at the power of therapy dogs. To have your own special 4 legged friend by your side would make the journey an easier one… you wouldn’t be alone.

  9. My unit has a policy that always allows pets to visit per a protocol(aggressive dogs or dogs without their shots can’t come)

  10. I think hospitals do need to revise their visiting policy to include allowing pets in their patients’ best interest.

  11. A few hospitals in the Chicago area started letting volunteers bring their pets into the hospital. They go room to room to see if you’d like a visit with their pet. It’s a wonderful act….my dad was in & out of the hospital before he passed recently and it brought his spirits up. I can’t even imagine how he would’ve been if we were allowed to bring in HIS dog. 🙂

  12. 1. My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years; any separation from you will be painful for me. Remember that before you adopt me.

    2. Give me time to understand what you want from me; don’t be impatient, short-tempered, or irritable.

    3. Place your trust in me and I will always trust you back. Respect is earned not given as an inalienable right.

    4. Don’t be angry with me for long and don’t lock me up as punishment; I am not capable of understanding why. I only know I have been rejected. You have your work, entertainment, and friends, but I only have you.

    5. Talk to me. Even if I don’t understand your words, I do understand your voice and your tone. You only have to look at my tail.

    6. Be aware that however you treat me, I’ll never forget it, and if it’s cruel, it may affect me forever.

    7. Please don’t hit me. I can’t hit back, but I can bite and scratch, and I really don’t ever want to do that

    8. Before you scold me for being uncooperative, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right foods or I’ve been out in the sun too long, or my heart is getting old and weak. It may be I am just dog-tired.

    9. Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old and may also need love, care, comfort, and attention.

    10. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say, “I can’t bear to watch” or “Let it happen in my absence.” Everything is easier for me if you are there. Remember, regardless of what you do, I will always love you.

    Author Stan Rawlinson 1993

  13. A few years ago when my Dad was in rehab, I was allowed to bring my 6 month old pup in to visit. It wasn’t long before nurses were asking me to take the puppy to visit someone else. The pup not only made the patients feel better, but she was a stress reliever for the nurses also.

  14. I have a puppy that Im training up to be a PAT dog so we can go into schools hospitals etc… to see different people with dogs is lovely x

  15. I would die, or want to, if I was separated from my dog. Good for them for allowing this visit and reconsidering their policy. Kindness is the best medicine.

  16. It’s wonderful to know that some hospitals are recognizing the importance of the bond between owners and their pets. I’d like to see this in every hospital. Blessings, too, to the people who foster and adopt the grieving pets who have lost loved ones to terminal illnesses and death. Surviving pets have special issues…thank goodness for the wonderful rescue groups that are doing all they can to save little guys like Bubba.

  17. I was in the hospital for 9 days in September for a pneumonia… My doctor and nurses encouraged my family to bring one of my furbabies … When they brought my 2lb chihuahua it was the best feeling to have at least one of my cuddling babies there!

  18. If they don’t allow my dogs I’m gonna stay at home.. At least I will pass wit all my babies and family around me

  19. What a wonderful story! I was allowed to bring my mother’s pets in to see her when she was in the hospital, extended rehab and finally a nursing home. The area where I live is very understanding of owner/pet relationships, thank goodness!

  20. I can’t imagine why dogs wouldn’t be allowed in a hospital for visitation. Surely the benefits outweigh any possible negatives.

  21. When my Mom was dying of terminal cancer, her boyfriend brought her dog to visit. They wouldn’t let the dog into the hospital, but they did let my Mom out for a little while on the sidewalk to see him. I still remember how happy she was to see Tedde.

    Nice to see some hospitals here in KY understand the bond between humans and their furry family members. As long as the animal is healthy and clean- let them in!

  22. Hospitals need to learn it’s not only medications and tests ect that patients need . Their very best friend may have 4 feet and a tail and that’s sometimes what the patient needs . — Jill

  23. We were allowed to bring my boy, Clyde, to see his mommy one last time before she passed away from brain cancer in July. This is them a few months prior.

  24. Due to illness, I chose to give up my 2 dogs for adoption. Saddens me that I can no longer give them the care they need. My saving grace is I also have 2 cat’s which are easier to care for. I know I would emotionally deteriorate without them.

  25. Great story. Wish more facilities were open to this. Should be allowed for all ages. The older are likely home alone more and while they may have great family that visit or call, the animal is there all the time and gives them a purpose

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