Atlanta Hospital Rallies Around Beloved Therapy Dog With Blood Clot In Brain

By Travis Greenwood

Everyone needs help from time to time — especially those whose job it is to care for others.

That's the touching story out of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, where staff and patients recently came together to support Casper, a beloved therapy dog who fell ill.

For the last 9 years, he — and a team of service pups — has comforted patients with cuddles, tail wags, and nose boops.

Adorned in a green service vest and employee ID card, the highly-trained golden lab quickly demonstrated a knack for making kids and parents smile — something that carried over to the hospital's team of doctors, nurses, and volunteers.

In an interview with CNN, Casper's handler, Lisa Kinsel, explains:

"That was one of the things we really didn't think about when we started this ... It was all about the patients and families. And then more and more, we were finding that the staff were calling and saying, 'We've had a really rough day in Intensive Care today. Will you please bring him up? Because the staff need to see him."

Last November, she noticed something was amiss when he started favoring his right side.

Unable to stand or walk properly, Casper was taken in for a check-up but the diagnosis was dire: A blood clot in his brain contributed to a stroke which left him in a weakened state and "unsure where his front left paw was hitting."

Under the care of Dr. Kimberly Neff at Georgia Veterinary Rehab, Casper the therapy dog has been getting some therapy of his own, and the early returns are very promising.

Included as part of his rehabilitation, has been weekly sessions on an underwater treadmill, which affords him "exercise without putting too much pressure on his joints."

To keep Casper motivated, the team at GVR slathers peanut butter (said to be his preferred treat) on the window in front of him.

Therapy dog eats peanut butter in underwater treadmill
credit: CNN

While he hasn't been able to return to the hospital as a full-time service dog, Casper has grown strong enough to make short appearances. Including amongst them was one visit in December when the hospital organized a party attended by hundreds of patients and employees to celebrate his 9th birthday!

The moment was captured in a Facebook post that provoked an outpouring of emotion — writer reaches for tissues — from those that had met him previously. (Those aren't tears, everyone, my eyes are just leaky AF.)

Here's hoping this golden doggo makes a full recovery. We're rooting for you, Casper!