(APRIL 27, 2018), Palmetto, Fla.–Hercules is a lovable, huggable, smile-maker of a Lab that serves veterans every day. He’s one of our newest facility therapy dogs and boy, does he love his job. When he and Marine veteran Robert Lynch head to work each day at the James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital and Clinics in Tampa, Hercules spreads unconditional love and wags all over the place.
As a service-related disabled veteran, Robert Lynch knows about being in a “very dark place,” and how the right VA hospital care can help. The former active duty Marine and Department of Defense contractor thought about getting his own service dog. But in his role as the veterans’ experience officer at Haley, Robert wanted to do something broader and help other veterans, too. To that end, he became the facility therapy dog handler of Hercules, a “bubbly, purposeful and responsive rock star” of a black Lab.
Hercules is fulfilling Robert’s goals for himself and the staff and patients at Haley. “Hercules helps all of us,” says Robert. “And a happy staff gives better patient care.” Every morning, the team visits the hospital’s outpatient clinics, saying “Hi” and engaging 75 to 100 patients a day. “Eye contact, a warm greeting, and a smile on your face mean so much to someone coming to a hospital and cost absolutely nothing,” Robert adds.
At day’s end, Hercules goes home with Robert and his wife, Brenda, an Air Force veteran who also works at Haley. He has already made friends with their resident pet Lab, Nila. “Hercules connects with every generation and every gender and race. He is the common denominator. He is universal.”
About Southeastern Guide Dogs
Southeastern Guide Dogs transforms lives by creating and nurturing extraordinary partnerships between people and dogs. Employing the latest in canine development and behavior research, the national organization trains guide dogs, service dogs and companion dogs for people living with significant challenges including those with visual impairments and veterans with disabilities.
All of Southeastern Guide Dogs’ services—which include selective breeding and expert dog training; comprehensive on-campus student instruction; and lifetime alumni support—are provided at no cost to the recipients. The charity relies 100 percent on private donations and receives no government funding. Southeastern Guide Dogs has the distinction of being dually accredited by the two premier, global accreditation bodies: the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International. Learn more at www.GuideDogs.org.