A 70-pound golden retriever with silky blonde fur, a friendly face and a sweet demeanor undoubtedly attracts a lot of attention wherever she goes, and when Spencer Harman takes his dog Jamie out in public, that’s exactly what happens.
Harman knew Jamie was an exceptional dog from day one.
“As a puppy, she tried to jump on the sofa. I took her down and told her ‘no’ one time – and that’s all it took. She hasn’t jumped on the furniture since.”
Fast forward a few years. Harman enrolled his loving, furry friend in training class to become a certified therapy dog. Jamie passed with flying colors and joined the TMC Pet Therapy team two years ago. The 8-year-old is a welcome sight to patients. Harman laughed recalling one story in particular:
There was an elderly lady who got out of her hospital bed and down on the floor because she wanted to pet Jamie. And I thought "Oh my gosh – What do I do now?" One of the doctors walked in and said, "That’s alright – I’ve been trying to get her out of that bed for over a week."
Harman noted that Jamie greets a lot of people everywhere she goes.
“People are especially happy to see her in the surgical waiting area," he said. "She brings a little sunshine to folks who are anxiously awaiting word on their loved one.”
On Christmas Day in 2012, Harman didn’t have much going on at his house and thought that maybe some patients would enjoy a visit from Jamie. He brushed her out, put her vest on her, and headed over to TMC where they spent some time in unit 700. A woman came up to him and asked if he could please bring Jamie to her father’s room, which he did:
I remember he was an older gentleman. He was just taken by Jamie. He reached over the side of the bed and just kept petting her and smiling. We visited him for a few minutes, and then we went on our way.
Little did Harman know that those few minutes impacted that patient in a way he never imagined.
Harman and Jamie’s morning tradition includes a walk to Starbucks so that he can drink his coffee while she visits with customers. On an ordinary day in January, something extraordinary happened. “A woman named Karen came up to me and reminded me that Jamie and I had visited her father in TMC on Christmas Day. Her father, a Vietnam veteran, was discharged around New Year’s and passed away a week later. Before he passed, he asked his daughter to find Jamie and give her his Purple Heart medal.”
As she told the story to Harman, Karen pulled a little cloth handkerchief out of her purse and presented him with the medal. He admitted that it took a while for everything to soak in.
“I took it home, and when I pinned it on Jamie’s vest, I was so proud that she had impressed somebody like that. All I know is that she brought smiles and a few minutes of peace to the man in that bed that day,” he said.
Karen had tracked them down with the help of TMC nurses, who knew where the two typically spent their mornings. “When Karen approached me that morning, I thought she was just coming to say hello to Jamie. I never expected this to happen."
Harman tried to get the woman’s contact information, but in a hurry and late for her flight back to Chicago, she took down his information instead, and said she would send him some pictures of her father in the service. Harman hasn't heard from her, but holds out hope that one day he’ll learn more about the man who earned the medal his pup wears now. “I’ve got a proud little gal here, and I’m proud of her,” he boasted.
Harman recalled a day a while back when a man was walking his dog in the opposite direction in the Starbucks parking lot. “He looked over and when he saw Jamie, he saluted me. Chills came over my body. He was saluting the dog with the Purple Heart.”