Everyone in Oughterard knows Verdi. Well, most residents of the Connemara village recognise the dog, if not on first-name terms. And so, he was missed when he and his owner, Danny O’Neill, were away for six weeks.
It wasn’t a holiday, but both dog and man certainly felt revitalised after their return from a stay in St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin. Mr O’Neill, who is from the capital, can’t praise the hospital management and staff highly enough.
He is visually impaired with a disease that wastes away the optic nerve; and so when he developed a tumour of the intestine, and had to have treatment in Dublin, he could not envisage going anywhere without Verdi, his second pair of eyes.
St Luke’s rose to the challenge. From the time Mr O’Neill and Verdi arrived by taxi, they couldn’t have received better hospitality. “They had extra staff assigned to me, and even offered to walk the dog,” Mr O’Neill says.
Mr O’Neill was able to get out and about during his treatment, and Verdi gave him good reason to do so. There were walks around Rathgar, and even a couple of nights out – to the National Concert Hall as a guest on two occasions, with transport organised by the hospital’s director of nursing, Ms Eileen Maher. One of the nurses brought in a marrow bone, cooked, for the animal.
“They were so good to him, and became so fond of him,” Mr O’Neill says. “When the ward door opened in the morning, the first `how are you today, then?’ was to the dog, and then to me!”
Ms Maher said the hospital was “very open” to helping patients in this way. “Cancer is a life crisis, and so we like to be as supportive as we can.”