BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – A memorial to the ‘gentle giant’ sits in the lobby of Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, as patients and staff share memories of a therapy dog who passed too early after being exposed to toxic blue-green algae.
Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz lost their three beloved dogs in a matter of hours after the dogs were exposed to the algae in a pond in Wilmington.
One of the dogs, Harpo, was a well-known therapy dog at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, and would visit patients each Friday.
“Harpo always seemed to know the patients that needed it the most. He would sit outside their door, and wait to go it, they would get the patient ready and then he would go in and sit with them, sometimes he would climb up into the bed if they wanted it. He would lay down, he would put his little head on their chest and just look at them with his big brown eyes. He was just the greatest,” said Wendy Reavis, a case manager at the hospital.
In the lobby, there is now a poster with his photo and information about his unexpected and tragic death.
Through their grief, his owners have made it their mission to spread the word about this toxic algae, in hopes that no other dog dies because of it.
“The awareness has been unbelievable. Who knew that when this happened people would come out and tell their stories all over the U.S. talking about what happened to their dog. From Florida, to Georgia, to Texas it’s been amazing the people that have reached out and said we have to do something and reach out, and teach, and test waters,” Reavis said.
Reavis and many other staff had fond memories to share about Harpo. From the amount of people who knew him it was clear he touched the lives of many.
“He would lay his head in my lap and let me just hold him and rub his head because as employees we need that too. We have hard days, we have days we need that support from the pet therapy animals and he was great,” Reavis said.
Harpo’s picture will now stay in the lobby, but his presence will be missed throughout the halls of the hospital. Reavis said Harpo was like family to many.
“We will be missing the gentle giant. We will. His curls, he was a beautiful pup and he will be greatly missed as one of our therapy dogs,” she said.
Harpo’s owners and many others are now advocating for signs to be posted at bodies of water warning pet owners about the toxic algae.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and UNCW researchers have tested the water in the Wilmington pond and are awaiting lab results.
“We just need to do better as humans and owners to keep moving forward with the awareness. Don’t stop, and just let the world know something needs to be done about this blue/green algae. It does not need to kill anymore dogs.”
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