One of the newest employees at East Tennessee Children's Hospital is a four-legged friend whose job is to brighten the days of folks around the facility.
Farley, a golden retriever puppy born in October 2016, is the hospital's first-ever full-time facility support animal.
The lovable canine will take on her new job in memory of a former patient.
The idea for ETCH to get a facility dog came from 16-year-old oncology patient Kristyn Farley, explained Sue Wilburn, who is the V.P. of Human Resources and Farley's caretaker and handler.
Kristyn died last year but she had a passion for dogs and greater access to them while in ETCH's care, explained Wilburn.
Kristyn's dad, Jim Farley, said she loved to cuddle with dogs.
He adds that Kristyn would share her hospital bed with two to three dogs each week during her time at ETCH.
"There would be several times that the dog would come to Kristyn first, and that was it," said Farley. "They didn't get to go to anybody else."
A grant from PetSmart Charities helped the hospital get the facility dog and hospital volunteers set up a fund to cover daily expenses.
Christina Ryskamp, store leader at PetSmart Knoxville located at West Town Mall, nominated the hospital to receive the grant.
“For years, our team has worked with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital to collect and donate plush toys to bring a smile to the faces of its pediatric patients during the holiday season. Seeing the reaction of those children inspired us to want to do more,” said Ryskamp.
It'll still be a bit of time before Farley moves into her full-time position. For now, she's working in the Human Resources department and will soon begin a 6-week puppy training program.
Before interacting with patients Farley must complete a comprehensive training program, undergo temperament evaluations and be at least a year old. She'll primarily be a staff dog but will be available to visit with patients, when a volunteer therapy dog isn't available.