Community loses second canine friend

This spring has been a hard season for dogs trained to serve the local public.

Fisher, the social dog at Hillsboro Community Medical Center Long Term Care Unit for the past six years, was put to sleep Monday afternoon because of declining health.

Gayla Ratzlaff, activities and social services director at HCMC and Fisher’s primary caretaker, said the 8-year-old golden retriever had been diagnosed with kidney failure within the last two months. His health had noticeably declined in the last two weeks.

A month earlier, Otto, the police department’s drug, died of natural causes.

Fisher was trained by Kansas Specialty Dogs in Washington and brought to HCMC in June 1995. The purpose of a social dog is to bring companionship to residents and patients who desire it.

“For some residents who had animals in the home, he was a good replacement when they couldn’t bring their animals here,” Ratzlaff said. “He established friendships with a number of residents through the years.”

Fisher’s presence benefitted others, too. “In one sense, I think he’s made more of an impact on staff,” Ratzlaff said. “I know many of them will miss him, too.”

A farewell gathering for residents and staff in Fisher’s memory is planned for 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the chapel of the HCMC Long Term Care Unit.

Ratzlaff said residents and staff have asked her about bringing a new social dog to the hospital and home, but no decisions have been made.

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