A new star dog has emerged in Northeast Ohio, the United States, after blind canine Stevie Wonderful was named Pedigree Foundation’s 2020 Rescue Dog Of The Year. But for his owners, and those who see him every week at the Cleveland Clinic, this isn’t news.
Stevie Wonderful, a nine-year-old Border Collie, has been a Canine Greeter at Cleveland Clinic for two years. He joined a talented group of canine companions who bring smiles to the faces of patients, family members and staff as they greet visitors in the hospital’s lobby.
But his story wasn’t always this happy. Three years ago, Stevie was found on the side of the road with a rusty chain wrapped around his neck. He was taken to Indian Summers Border Collie Rescue, where they discovered he was malnourished, blind, heartworm positive, suffering from mange and covered with fleas and ear mites.
Once recovered, he was put up for adoption and quickly found a home with Richard and Debra Johnson of Bath, Ohio.
“I came across his story online and broke down in tears, ” said Richard.
Since then, Stevie has flourished in his new home. Although still blind, he has learned his surroundings and lives life to its fullest despite his disability. Stevie enjoys playing ball with his dog siblings and running around his home, which sits on 3.6ha of land.
But every Wednesday, Stevie reports to the Cleveland Clinic as a Canine Greeter, a job at which he excels.
“I think people relate to him because even though he is handicapped, he is providing a very useful service in an area where many seriously ill people relate to him, ” said Richard. “For a short period of time, they forget about their own challenges. He makes everyone he meets smile! He makes me smile as well.”
And it’s because of his great work, resilience and ability to overcome obstacles that he won Pedigree Foundation’s 2020 Rescue Dog Of The Year.
“The person that we received Stevie from nominated him with Pedigree for International Rescue Dog Of The Year, ” said Debra. “Through Pedigree Foundation, they unanimously voted Stevie in.”
“It’s never happened before, ” added Richard.
Stevie is one of 43 Canine Greeters at Cleveland Clinic who work 90-minute shifts one day a week.
Stevie can usually be found in the hospital’s main lobby on Wednesdays from 11am to 12.30pm. Each dog is a cherished part of the team but Stevie’s special needs make him an ideal dog for the role.
“Stevie Wonderful is a shining example of the joy that greeter dogs can bring to patients, ” said Jennifer Reinke, co-ordinator of Caring Canines at Cleveland Clinic.
“We are thrilled he is receiving this honour. Like many of our patients, Stevie Wonderful has overcome many hardships – both physical and emotional. Now, the sight of him in the halls of the hospital can bring a smile and a bit of comfort to so many during times of difficulty.” – Tribune News Service/The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)/Hannah Drown