Meet the new chief canine officer at Kapiolani Medical Center.
Winnie is highly trained with specialized skills, a high-ranking officer at one of the busiest hospitals in the state, and she’s only a year old.
The hospital had been in search of a new therapy dog since Tucker died last year. On Friday, the Labrador Retriever was officially hired for the full-time position.
The hospital actually tried out several dogs for the position. Officials say Winnie had that something extra that the other dogs just didn’t have.
Kapiolani Medical Center held a blessing for the momentous occasion. It’s been seven months since Tucker passed away, and a crowd of excited staff and patients gathered to welcome his successor.
Winnie has already seen some of the patients before being officially hired.
“During chemo I would be lying in bed and she would just jump on my bed and snuggle and would make me feel better,” said patient Robin Ribac.
Winnie has apparently perfected the snuggling skill, but she has many others.
“She knows about 90 (different commands),” said Winnie’s handler, Dr. Wendi Hirsch. She was also Tucker’s handler. “She’s really good at carrying things with her mouth, so she can bring objects to you. We can have her bring things like toys and things to the kids in their rooms.”
Winnie was trained and donated to the hospital by Assistance Dogs of Hawaii.
But Kapiolani didn’t just hand her the job, she had to earn the title of Chief Canine Officer. Three other highly qualified dogs were considered, but in the end, Winnie had that certain something.
“She’ll give you a very soulful look, but she’s just there to comfort people,” said Martha Smith, CEO of Kapiolani Medical Center. “It’s clear that she sort of gets you when you approach her, and she’ll put her head in your lap or she’ll throw herself on the floor in front of you.”
The right temperament, soulful eyes, and what probably sealed the deal is her humility. Given all the duties and responsibilities that go with the job, she doesn’t ask for much in return.
“So what kind of salary does a chief canine officer get?” KHON2 asked.
“Well, she gets endless love and kisses and hugs, and all the treats you can eat,” Hirsch said. “That’s all she asked for.”