'Pawsome' Virginia hospital therapy dog Skippy remembered as 'very outgoing, smart'

Skippy Therapy Dog
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Posted at 8:00 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 20:18:05-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Staff and patients at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital are thinking of their dear departed friend, Skippy, a Yorkshire terrier therapy dog, who passed away in February.

April 30 is National Animal Therapy Day, which, for the staff at Sentara, evokes memories of the beloved pup who, along with his owner Bob Norville, volunteered more than 2,000 hours visiting patients and staff since 2016.

Melanie Hayes is a former patient at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital. Hayes says part of her healing process was receiving the helping paw from a Yorkshire Terrier.

Skippy the Sentara therapy dog
Skippy the Sentara therapy dog

"I had staples in my stomach in my abdomen from the kind of surgery that I had but just having the presence of Skippy right there where I could stroke him it was just nice to have him right there," said Hayes.

Robert Norville, a volunteer therapy dog coordinator says his pup Skippy was pretty "pawsome."

"He was a very outgoing smart little dog," explained Norville. "My wife worked at the hospital and we determined he would be a great therapy dog,"

At 11 months old, Norville trained Skippy to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test and the therapy dog test.

Skippy the Sentara therapy dog
Skippy the Sentara therapy dog

Over eight years, the two of them spent over 2,000 volunteer hours visiting patients and staff.

"Skippy would stay for 45 minutes with a patient. I wasn't going to take him out of a patient's arms until a nurse came in to do vitals or something like that," explained Norville.

Medically speaking, Sonia Cooper the chief nursing officer of the hospital says this little dog made a difference.

"When we look at the oxytocin release and the dopamine release that people feel, our patients who were sad or worn out felt that when they were holding the dog," said Cooper.

Skippy the Sentara therapy dog
Skippy the Sentara therapy dog

In February, Norville says his 9-year-old terrier died suddenly without reason.

"It was 4 in the morning and I heard him cry. I thought he was having a nightmare so I picked him up, I could feel his heart beating and then he died in my arms," said Norville.

Shortly after his death, Norville says he decided the bring in another therapy dog, not to replace Skippy but to carry on the canine's legacy.

While he's got some big paw prints to fill, staff members know he'll carry on the legacy of another little dog that stole the heart of an entire hospital.

Skippy the Sentara therapy dog
Skippy the Sentara therapy dog

Skippy Jr. will continue to work with staff until January. Once he is a year old he will be able to interact with patients in the hospital.



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