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At Hospital’s Bradley Memorial Campus, a Cold Nose Warms Hearts

Southington [April 04 2008] - Josie Wyatt had come from Virginia to visit her daughter, Rosie Wyatt, in Southington, when a sudden illness landed Josie at the Hospital of Central Connecticut’s Bradley Memorial campus.

Talking quietly in Josie’s room, mother and daughter were making the best of a less-than-ideal Easter holiday recently when a visitor poked his nose into the room. Literally. The women immediately broke into wide grins.

“Would you like a visit from Wally, the hospital volunteer dog?” asked Marion Gionfriddo of Southington, Wally’s owner and a Bradley Memorial campus volunteer.

Josie held out her arms in response.
“He’s wonderful,” Rosie said, as her mother stroked the Wheaton Terrier’s champagne-colored fur. “I’m a dog lover.”

Wally gets similar reactions from just about everyone he meets. Trotting down the hospital hallways with Gionfriddo, he’s greeted with delight by staff and visitors.

“Everyone knew Wally, but it took them about a year to learn my name,” Gionfriddo said with a laugh.

Gionfriddo has been bringing volunteer dogs to the Bradley Memorial campus since 2002, when Wally’s predecessor, Annie, visited patients. Medical issues interrupted Gionfriddo’s visits, but she resumed the tradition about a year and a half ago. This time she brought Wally, whom she’d adopted from the West Haven animal shelter and put through obedience training.

Gionfriddo and Wally usually visit once a week. Besides his official hospital badge identifying him as a volunteer, Wally often sports holiday garb – like the pink bunny ears he wore before Easter.

He and Gionfriddo visit patients throughout the campus, except those on infection control precautions and other restrictions. Some patients don’t want a visit, but many are thrilled to see the dog, Gionfriddo says.

“He’s adorable!” exclaimed Olga Pruchnic of Southington, another patient. “Look at the smile he’s giving me.”

“He does a lot for people here, especially the really sick ones,” said Lisa Mariotti, an nurse tech on the Bradley Memorial campus North 3 nursing unit.

Gionfriddo recalled a past visit with an intensive care unit patient who was dying. The patient’s daughter asked her to bring Wally in, and the patient just held the dog.

“I cried when I left that day,” Gionfriddo said. “And I prayed. Whenever we leave, we pray for everyone we’ve visited.”

Although Wally is usually the one in the spotlight, both dog and owner are well loved at the Bradley Memorial campus, said Louise Jones, coordinator of Bradley Memorial campus volunteers.
“Marion is a very giving, spiritual woman. We’re so lucky to have her.”

Contact: Nancy Martin, 860-224-5900, ext. 4366

HCC Corporate Communications
(860) 224-5695 • Fax (860) 224-5779