Somewhere inside the intensive care unit at Mount Carmel Grove City, in Grove City, Ohio, on one recent morning, Morgan Sheehan and Holly Riegel stood beside a bed and helped the patient lying in front of them FaceTime with family one last time before the person would be intubated and lose the ability to communicate, at least for now.
It was a moment that is repeated over and over and over in these days of COVID, one that never gets any easier.
But as soon as Sheehan, unit coordinator for the ICU, and Riegel, a multi-skilled patient technician, stepped from the room, they headed right into a breakroom to see Gracie, a 70-pound labradoodle who makes her rounds to visit the exhausted and emotionally-wrecked hospital staff a couple of times each week.
Sheehan dropped down to her knees and buried her face in Gracie's black and white floof on that morning last week.
"There's my girl," Sheehan cooed as she rubbed the dog's floppy ears. "She's the best girl. Gracie always seems to appear on the hardest days."
Watching from nearby was Denise Minor, Mount Carmel Health System's vice president of patient care services and its chief nursing officer. She also is Gracie's human.
Gracie the therapy dog: Giving COVID-stressed nurses unconditional love
Minor decided more than a year ago to put her dog through training as a therapy/comfort dog. With COVID protocols and restrictions at various pet places, it took longer than expected, but she wasn't giving up. This was personal to her.
Four years ago in February, she and her siblings lost their father to suicide, and her perspective changed.
"You never really know what somebody is going through," Minor said. "Even if you think you do know."