Favorite furry friend is right medicine after staff member’s difficult surgery

During her time working at Mayo Clinic in Florida, Rebecca Chiera formed a special connection with a Caring Canine named Kalvin. After Rebecca had a difficult surgery, she knew a visit from Kalvin was just what she needed to feel better.

When Rebecca Chiera was recovering from surgery at Mayo Clinic in Florida, she had one special request. She wanted to see Kalvin. 

Kalvin was different from Rebecca's other visitors. He has four legs and a tail that wags whenever anyone looks in his direction. He also wears a blue vest, indicating he is one of Mayo Clinic's Caring Canines.

Caring Canines is an animal-assisted activities program. Registered dogs and their owners meet and greet patients, families and visitors in several areas around the clinic and hospital.

Occasionally, they form special bonds with Mayo Clinic staff, too. Rebecca, a patient services specialist in Radiology at Mayo Clinic in Florida, is proof of that.

She is Kalvin's biggest fan and still remembers the day she met him more than two years ago.

"He was in the lobby at Mayo 2 South getting his head rubbed. I walked over and scratched his ears, which he enjoyed thoroughly," Rebecca says.

Since then, they have shared an unbreakable bond.

"Every Wednesday, Kalvin comes and peeks his head around the corner at me with a big smile. When I see him, I call his name, and he hurries over to me while making happy whining noises," Rebecca says. "We both look forward to Wednesdays."

Rebecca has many fond memories with Kalvin, like seeing him dressed in the sparkly red bow tie and Disney shirt she gave him last Christmas. But her favorite now is when she got to experience Kalvin differently — as a Mayo Clinic patient.

In February, Rebecca underwent gastric bypass surgery.

"It was a hard surgery for me. I was in a lot of pain afterward, but my care team helped me through it," Rebecca says. "They encouraged me to walk around the floor and made me feel confident in my decision to have surgery."

On her second day in recovery, she knew a visit from her favorite therapy dog was what she needed to lift her spirits. So she called the Caring Canines team to see if Kalvin could stop by. They said he would be there soon.

Kalvin's handler and Mayo Clinic volunteer, Betty Smith, recalls that Kalvin was elated when he realized the patient he was visiting was Rebecca.

The feeling was mutual.

"I was so excited to see my sweet Kalvin in the hospital," Rebecca says. "We got to spend a full hour together, and we were both enjoying every minute. His visit really boosted my spirits and helped with my pain."

Her patient experience affirmed what she knew about Kalvin and the other Caring Canines.

"They bring out the 'happy' in every patient who interacts with them," Rebecca says.

Editor's Note: You may have heard that Lily, another Caring Canine at Mayo Clinic, and her handler Charlie Waite were named semifinalists in the American Humane Association National Hero Dog Awards Competition in the Therapy Dog category. You can help them win the competition by voting for Lily here once each day through Aug. 24.

Mayo Clinic has Caring Canine programs in ArizonaFlorida and Rochester, as well as at many Mayo Clinic Health System locations. If you have a furry friend who could bring joy to patients, you can learn more about volunteering at Mayo Clinic here.