Facility dog program welcomes new hero to adult palliative care team

Greenville, SC – A fictional champion is coming to life as a hero in a different form as the Prisma Health facility dog program welcomes new member Beowulf to its growing ranks.

Beowulf, a golden doodle named after the hero of the eponymous Old English epic poem, will join the Canine F.E.T.C.H. (Friends Encouraging Therapeutic Coping and Healing) Unit and serve the adult palliative care team at Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital. In this role, he will provide comfort for patients and families grappling with a serious diagnosis.

Beowulf is a welcome addition to the adult palliative care team, said Dr. Katie Wittwer, palliative care physician and Beowulf’s primary handler. The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for patients coping with serious illness by providing education, symptom management and emotional and spiritual support. Palliative care is a resource for patients and families at any stage of illness, from initial diagnosis to end-of-life.

“We are working with patients and families during one of the most difficult periods in their lives, so they are often dealing with heightened stress and anxiety on top of the medical challenges they or their loved one are facing,” said Wittwer. “Beowulf will be an instrumental part of delivering compassionate care. We have seen the way the mood lifts when a dog walks in to a patient room, and he will be a wonderful resource to those we serve.”

While Beowulf carries the legacy of his name, he also carries the legacy of Kay Taylor, a patient whose family was touched by the work of the adult palliative care team. Beowulf’s arrival was made possible through a generous donation from the Taylor family in honor of Kay and in gratitude for the work of the team.

“Kay embodied a spirit of unconditional love throughout her life,” said Shane Taylor, Kay’s son. “We’re honored that this spirit is carried on through Beowulf, and that he is impacting those who are in most need of a friend at this time in their lives. His heroic name is only fitting for the hero that he will surely be to many families over the years.”

Before beginning service at Prisma Health–Upstate, Beowulf underwent extensive training at Canine Assistants, a Georgia nonprofit that specializes in training facility dogs and other service dogs. Each dog begins training at two to three days old and learns the patience and discipline required to work in a high-touch environment for up to eight hours per day. When the dogs are ready to graduate to full hospital employment, handlers attend a one-week training session to be matched with a dog based on personality and ability.

The dogs are also named in training based on the theme of the dog’s particular litter. Beowulf’s litter was themed “men in literature.”

Beowulf is the sixth dog to join the Canine F.E.T.C.H. Unit, the largest facility dog program in South Carolina. Beowulf joins member Bunny on the adult palliative care team.

To support the growing Canine F.E.T.C.H. Unit, interested community members can contact the Prisma Health–Upstate Office of Philanthropy by visiting www.ghsgiving.org.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health, a not-for-profit health company, is committed to excellence in patient care, clinical research and teaching the next generation of medical professionals. Our organization – South Carolina’s largest private employer – was formed when Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health joined together in late 2017, officially becoming Prisma Health in January 2019. With 32,000 team members (including volunteers), 18 hospitals and over 300 physician practice sites, we serve more than 1.2 million patients annually – about a quarter of the state’s population. Our goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care. Our cardiovascular, neuroscience, OB/GYN, oncology and orthopedic programs attract patients throughout the region. Also noteworthy are our two renowned children’s hospitals, comprehensive diabetes care and extensive primary care network. Ultimately, we are dedicated to transforming the health care experience for our patients and families, our team members and guests by bringing our purpose to life: Inspire health. Serve with compassion. Be the difference. Learn more at PrismaHealth.org.

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