ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – Allow me to introduce Odin, the therapy dog at Cardinals Kids Cancer Center at Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur. A 5-year-old black Labrador who moves from room to room, spending time and bringing love to sick children and their families while the children undergo their treatments.
“The first day I came here I was nervous, then I saw him and I said, ‘A dog!’ I fell in love with Odie. He reminds me of my dogs at home. He’s like my best friend,” said Anna, a 14-year-old ovarian cancer patient.
That day, Anna and Odin celebrated that she was declared cancer-free and in remission. Anna gives Odin a long hug and thanks him for being there every step of the way.
According to Anna’s grandmother, Carla Woods, Odin is the one who made the biggest difference for her as she went through all the difficult and painful treatment.
“He gave him the purpose of coming here. She always looks forward to seeing Odin. It makes his treatments so much more bearable,” Woods said. “I don’t know if she could have made it without him. We are grateful.
As beneficial as Odin is for children, it is paramount for many parents in helping them cope with their child’s illness.
“It’s been a tough time for her, but also a tough time for parents, and having Odin there really helps us get through every visit,” said Katie Rowland, whose 2-year-old daughter, Emma, is patient at the center. “Odin offers so much comfort not only to her but also to me.”
Following what Odin gave the Rowland family, they plan to have a dog soon, and that dog will be a Labrador Retriever with big shoes to fill.
Odin’s attributes don’t stop at all his good deeds. The many-talented dog is usually seen knocking for Santa Claus during the Christmas season or playing the part of an elf on St. Patrick’s Day. Odin is also known to chase and retrieve a tennis ball or two and bring them back to an excited little boy or girl.
It was a long process to get Odin. In 2018, the center requested a therapy dog through DUO, an organization that trains facility and assistance dogs. It was a long process that included DUO visiting the center to determine what type of dog would best suit the needs of the center. Once approved, the process of choosing a dog took months, but in February 2019, DUO contacted the center to let them know they were getting a 2-year-old black Labrador named Odin.
DUO put Odin through an intensive four-month training, then an additional 40 hours of training with his master Laura Hanks before being introduced to the center. Hanks, who is the center’s social worker and patient advocate, knew right away that Odin was the perfect fit.
“He’s trained to just lay there and accept all the love he gets and there’s a lot of hands in his face,” she said. “Let’s just say some of the kids are very exuberant about it and he soaks it up. It’s very special.”
Like Yadi and Waino, their partnership exists to bring happiness, joy, and victory when you need it. It is a relationship of mutual trust, common purpose and affection.
“He makes things easier. When I’m ready to take him to a patient, he gets up and comes. A big part of my job is to support patients, and he helps me comfort them. He lives with my family and me, and when we leave the house every day he knows he has a job to do. He’s just wonderful,” Hanks said. “I can’t imagine coming to work without him.”
Not everything is work for Odin. After spending a day at the center, he can relax by taking a walk, retrieving a ball with Hanks’ other dogs, or maybe taking a dip in the lake.
Laura Hanks says jumping into the lake is one of “Odin’s favorite things in life”.
If Odin could talk, like any hero, I think he’d probably tell us he doesn’t want the accolades and he’s just doing his job. The work he loves and for which he was born.
Odin works hard, but he also enjoys playing with his furry family members at home.
Click here to learn more about DUO Dogs and to donate.
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