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Therapy “Dogtor” Delivers Care Packages To First Responders

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on May 6, 2020

When Loki the Therapy Rottweiler needed help, her friends at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) were there for her. Now that the tables have turned, Loki and her mom, medical student Caroline Benzel, are delighted to return the favor.

Amid the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic, the pair are distributing “Hero Healing Kits” to medical personnel on the front lines.

Photo via Facebook/Loki the Therapy Dog

Benzel adopted Loki intending to make her a hospital therapy dog. Inspired by the pooch that visited her sick grandfather, she and Loki began seeing patients at UMMC several days a week. They also made time to visit with the medical staff, earning Loki the honorary title of “Dogtor.”

“We were doing therapy for the entire hospital system,” Benzel told CNN. “Whether it be custodians, first responders, nurses, doctors, patients, or even family members in the waiting room.”

Photo via Facebook/Loki the Therapy Dog

A Therapy Dog In Need

Unfortunately, Loki was sidelined by a medical problem of her own. She needed expensive surgery for a torn ACL, and the crew at UMMC stepped up in a big way.

“The hospital suggested that I do a GoFundMe, and they as a whole ended up paying for her entire surgery and her physical therapy,” Benzel said. “I got really close with a lot of the staff over doing the therapy visits and they did that for me in my time of need.”

Loki and Benzel went back to work, but soon another medical crisis put them on the sidelines. This time it was the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Photo via Facebook/Loki the Therapy Dog

Dogtor Loki Goes Digital

With hospital restrictions no longer allowing in-person visits, Benzel did the next best thing. She began FaceTiming with her friends at the clinic, so they could continue to see Loki’s sweet face.

The calls were a bright spot for the staff, but Benzel could tell the stress and hard work were getting to them.

“You can kind of see that wearing PPE for prolonged periods does start rubbing your skin and can start irritating it,” Benzel said. “For me, wearing these masks for short periods of time, it starts to irritate my skin. So, I can only imagine for people wearing it for eight to 10 to 12 plus hours, what kind of damage it can do.”

Photo via Facebook/Loki the Therapy Dog

Hero Healing Kits

Benzel came up with an idea to make life just a little bit easier for the healthcare workers. She began assembling “Hero Healing Kits” full of self-care essentials like skin moisturizers, lip balm, medicated powder, tea, granola bars, and more. She also included a picture of Loki to help brighten their day.

All items are travel-size, so workers can store necessities in the pockets of their scrubs.

After the initial delivery to the ICU at UMMC, Benzel put out a call on social media asking for help with more kits. Benzel and company have since distributed more than 5,500 Hero Healing Kits.

Photo via Facebook/Loki the Therapy Dog

Kindness Spreads Like A Virus

With attention from major news outlets like CNN, Fox, and People Magazine, The Hero Healing Kit project spread across the country and expanded to include police and firefighters. Benzel has been blown away by all the support – both financial and emotional – she has received since the project began.

“THIS was the dream, and it is coming to fruition: not only to help frontline workers/first responders, but to inspire others to do the same in their counties and states for their respective hospitals,” Benzel wrote on Loki’s Facebook page. “Thank you again for all the love and support shown through all of this. We wanted to show our people keeping us safe some love, and because of you, we have been able to do that. 💕💕”

Photo via Facebook/Loki the Therapy Dog

To help Loki and Benzel continue to grow their mission, you can purchase healing kit items from their Amazon Wishlist or direct message them on Facebook to donate funds via Venmo.

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