‘Dude’ the therapy dog forms special bond with cancer patients

Since this past summer, Dude can relate to what these oncology patients are going through.
A story you'll see only on 6 News, a very special pup is making a lot of people smile.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 10:30 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Dude isn’t your average canine.

He’s a therapy dog and brings a smile to almost anyone he meets.

Dude and his owner Linda Norling have been coming to Methodist Hospital since October of 2017. Due to the pandemic, Dude wasn’t able to visit starting in April 2020. However, they resumed their visits in May of this year, meeting with cancer patients in their rooms every week.

Dude is a very popular pup, even among hospital staff; but he hasn’t always been a healthy dog.

“He started out having Mega-E, where they regurgitate their food. Then soon after that, he quit eating and he lost 10 lbs. in 15 days, and was finally diagnosed with Addison’s disease. At the same time he was diagnosed with Hypothyroid,” says Norling.

Since this past summer, Dude can relate to what these oncology patients are going through.

“We noticed this growth in his mouth and it turned out to be oral cancer. It grew from the size of a kidney bean to about the size of a mini pepper in about six weeks. It grew so rapidly people thought ‘oh it’s just a cyst’. Then when we had it removed they sent it in for testing and found out it was cancer,” says Norling.

For cancer patients like Colleen Nieto, Dude brightens her day.

“Brings your spirits up, because you’re just sitting here…I’m going to cry, just doing nothing,” says Nieto.

Knowing he’s also battled cancer it helps remind patients that they’re not alone.

“I think when they hear that, they kind of sit back like oh I’m not the only one. I think it just makes them connect a little bit better, realizing that everyone can get cancer,” says Norling.

“It’s just crazy how pets and dogs, like they know that there’s something wrong with someone. I mean he came straight to me out of everyone that was in here,” says Nieto.

Even if his visit is only for a few minutes, it can make a big difference in how the patient is feeling emotionally.

“It just means a lot to me too to know that Dude can bring so much happiness even for such a short amount of time,” says Norling.

Dude has since recovered from his cancer.

Linda plans to have Dude keep visiting patients for as long as he can.