And it will be in our darkest hour that the true hero will emerge… that’s not an actual quote from anywhere but it feels like it could be, right? It totally applies here, too, because my dearest CBers, we have our hero and her name is Loki. Dogtor Loki, that is. Three-year-old Loki is a Rottweiler who belongs to medical student Caroline Benzel from Baltimore, Maryland. When she noticed the stress that managing COVID was taking on her nurse friends, Caroline enlisted Loki, a therapy dog, to bring them kits filled with snacks, moisturizers for skin and lips and other self-care items. She called the kits “Hero Healing Kits” and had Loki dress in scrubs to deliver them. The results has been many awards for the good Dogtor, thousands of donations for Caroline and her kits and, most importantly, some very well-deserved love for those on the front lines of this horrible pandemic.
Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE.
Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a creative way to support their friends on the frontlines. She dressed up Loki in a lab coat and had the “Dogtor” deliver “hero healing kits” to nurses at their local University of Maryland Medical Center. The kits contain granola bars, moisturizers, lip balm, and other self-care items.
Volunteers in California, New Jersey, Minnesota, and five more states have raised close to $100,000 and delivered thousands of kits in recent months.
“It’s been such a positive experience during a tough time,’ says Benzel, who has raised $70,000 and delivered nearly 4,500 kits to date.
Dogtor Loki has earned her fair share of the credit as well, winning several awards including The Animal Medical Center of New York’s 2020 Top Dog Honoree and the American Kennel Club’s Paw of Courage award.
Benzel and Loki plan to deliver their hero healing kits for as long as the pandemic continues. “It’s totally worth it, I would go without sleep to make sure that these kits go out because it’s I think it’s important to show our healthcare workers support,” Benzel says.
People throughout the country have reached out to Benzel about how to train their own dogs as therapy dogs so they, too, can spread a little joy in their communities.
She adds: “Rottweilers are considered ‘big and scary,’ but Loki shows that anyone can be kind and make a difference.”
Scrolling through Loki’s Instagram yesterday was the respite I needed from, well *gestures to everything*. At first, I thought Loki loved herself a camera, but I think on some deeper level she knows we need these photos as much as those nurses need her kits. And it’s not just the kits, although I’m sure they provide a much-needed distraction for the medical personnel who receive them. The few moments they get to spend with Loki are also valuable. A few hospitals have employed therapy dogs for health care workers in COVID units to try to manage the stress. If the photos are anything to go by, the good Dogtor is eating this up as much as her pawtients (too much?).
I lived with three Rotts in college. My roommate, who answered our ad for the empty room, bred them. That’s one of those things that now you think, ‘what the hell? she had no business doing anything like that,’ but your 20-year-old, ignorant self thought, ‘oh, cool.’ This was when Rotts were popular because they were considered scary, guard dogs. I didn’t know much about them at all. I forgot my keys one day and hopped the back fence before I realized the unaltered, 70 lb male was outside, unattended and unleashed. I was petrified. Fortunately, Kinta recognized me before it was too late. I did adore all three (the other two were girls) and know now any issues they had were training issues. I haven’t seen the breed for years, but they are starting to pop up at the dog park and honestly, they are among the friendliest ones there. I’m glad people are taking the time with them now, they are great dogs, as Loki shows us. The article mentioned that people have inquired about training their dogs to be therapy dogs but doesn’t link that info. I found a few links from reputable sources, but I just did a Google search. If anyone has better information, please share it. Just think how nice it would be to have a Dogtor in the family?
Photo credit Instagram