Personal Health

These Therapy Dogs Advocated for Their Owner While He Was on a Ventilator With COVID—and Their Important Message Is Going Viral

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If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can’t persuade everybody to wear a face covering to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, maybe a pair of therapy dogs whose owner was hospitalized with COVID-19 will get the message across? 

Coco and Cici, Maltese dogs and social media stars from Scottsdale, Arizona, used their popular Instagram page (which is named after Coco, though Cici makes regular appearances) to send an important message to their 285,000 followers. “Will bite those not wearing a mask” said the cardboard sign around Coco’s neck in the image posted on July 19.

Apart from being the cutest mask PSA ever, the post revealed that the dogs’ owner, Dennis (their “Daddy”), had been fighting COVID-19. 

The caption said, “Keep your distance, for real though. Today is day 16 that our Daddy has been in the ICU on a ventilator battling COVID-19. Unfortunately he took a turn yesterday and he needs our prayers and positive vibes.”

“We are so thankful for his team of nurses, doctors, and all staff members,” continued the two pups, who call themselves sisters but are actually aunt and niece. “They are our heroes. They are doing everything they can to save our dad’s life. With the power of prayer and positive thoughts we know he will come out of this.” 

On August 18, the pooches had good news for their followers, revealing that Dennis was home after 46 days in the hospital, 30 of which he spent on a ventilator.

“We can’t be more thankful and excited to spend the rest of our lives with him making memories,” wrote the pooches (or somebody on their behalf). “It’s hard to comprehend how so many have died from COVID-19 and our dad is still here but we are so grateful for another chance with him."

"We hope we can raise awareness for you to take COVID-19 more seriously," the post continued. "No one should have to go through what our dad went through. Thank you to all the nurses, doctors, and medical staff who fought for our dad. Thank you to everyone who prayed. The power was so strong and brought him back to us. Welcome home forever Dad. We love you.” 

As well as helping to raise awareness about COVID-19 (and being super cute), Coco and Cici are registered therapy dogs at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Every week, they “go room to room to snuggle with the kids, do tricks, and just give them love and affection during their time at the hospital,” according to their official online merchandise store. (Yes, that’s right—you can get sweatshirts, tote bags, and even shoes featuring those irresistible little furry faces.)

According to the USA Service Dog Registration website, a therapy dog “is trained to provide affection and comfort to those in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, retirement homes, people with learning disabilities, people with anxiety, people with severe stress, and disaster areas.” It’s quite different from a service animal, which is trained to give assistance to, or perform tasks for, a person with a physical or mental disability. 

In June 2020, Coco and Cici were chosen as Good Morning America’s “Pet of the Week” for their work at the children’s hospital. Could they be any sweeter? Probably not. 

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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