Victoria Humane Society hosts puppy cuddle event for healthcare workers and staff

Victoria Humane Society hosts puppy cuddle event for healthcare workers and staff
WatchIt's been a tough couple years for healthcare workers as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic on the front lines. As Jasmine Bala tells us, the community is stepping up to say thank you and this time, they're doing it with puppies.

Protection Services Officer Chris Wieneke was working in the Victoria General Hospital’s emergency department on Wednesday afternoon when one of his coworkers yelled out the good news.

“[She] shouted that there’s puppies at the south entrance,” Wieneke said, laughing. “So, I came to investigate what was going on.”

His investigation led him to the tents set up outside of the hospital’s south entrance, containing a portable puppy pen with seven shepherd-husky mixes, all ready to cuddle.

“It’s been a stressful last couple of months at work so it’s really nice to have these guys come in, some stress relief for sure,” he said, holding one of the puppies.

The seven puppies were brought in by the Victoria Humane Society, a small non-profit organization that finds homes for animals in need, as a way to say thank you to healthcare workers.

“These are the people who keep us alive,” said Penny Stone, executive director of the society. “They’ve been here in the trenches, with death and disease and everything, so we thought we would do something nice for them and bring them some puppies to cuddle.”

It’s a moment of joy in what has otherwise been a difficult time for healthcare workers.

“It’s been a rough couple of years being a healthcare worker,” said Gillian Kozinka, clinical operations director for Victoria General Hospital. “Dealing with the community health crisis of the pandemic, we’ve been pushed to our limits.”

Earlier this month, on Sept. 1, thousands of people protested vaccine cards and health mandates outside of hospitals across the province. Healthcare workers became targets of harassment and assault, with one protestor reportedly spitting at a nurse who was on her way into work at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH).

READ MORE: ‘Don’t hurt the helpers’: Healthcare workers react to reports of assault, verbal harassment at protests

A few days later, there was an outpouring of support. Inspiring messages were written in chalk outside of the Victoria General Hospital to greet healthcare workers arriving for their shifts. A big, red heart sign reading ‘You rock’ was found at the Nanaimo hospital.

The puppy cuddle event is meant to be part of that effort to thank healthcare workers.

“It’s a nice way for us to give back to make them happy to make them smile,” Stone said.

For these healthcare workers, community support like this makes it all worth it.

“It’s working, the staff are happy,” said Kozinka, smiling, puppy in hand. “They’re going back to work with a spring in their step today.”

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READ MORE: Inspirational messages left outside Victoria, Nanaimo hospitals days after protests

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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