Health First’s Viera Hospital Throws Emotional Retirement Party for Beloved Service Dog ‘Paco’
By Space Coast Daily // November 22, 2021
Paco has become a source of relief, comfort and support for thousands of patients
After almost nine years of spreading smiles and providing comfort, Health First’s Facility Service dog is retiring.
BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – One of Health First’s three current canine companion service dogs, Paco, will soon take his final hospital rounding lap and officially settle into retirement.
Today at Viera Hospital, many of Paco’s friends, associates, and leaders from across the hospital, including fellow service dog, 3-year-old ‘Jammer,’ turned out to send their beloved furry friend off to retirement in style with a fun (but emotional) party featuring a red carpet, snacks (for humans and canines) and even personalized – but useful – memorabilia (ink pens inscribed with “Paco’s Pals.”)
Paco was originally introduced and placed in 2013 with Health First through Canine Companions for Independence – a leading service dog organization that trains and provides service dogs to adults, children, and veterans with disabilities, and facility dogs to professionals working in healthcare, criminal justice, and educational settings.
Since arriving at Health First, Paco has become a source of relief, comfort, and support for thousands of patients and associates – especially during the pandemic.
“Canine Companion dogs are actually required to retire after about 10 years of service – depending on health, and our good friend Paco turns 11 next week, so he is officially ready to spend his golden years relaxing and lounging by a pool,” said Dan Bowen, Vice President, and Viera Hospital Administrator.
“Today is an opportunity to gather and remember all the wonderful years of companionship Paco has given and celebrate the next phase of his life,” he continued.
“Paco has been an amazing facility service dog as he has touched the lives of everyone he meets to patients, family members, and most recently our associates,” said Dianna Green, Director of Clinical Operations at Health First and with whom Paco will now reside 24/7.
“Paco always knows who needs him the most and will always give them support and encouragement – from the lady who is taking her first steps with her new knee replacement, to a six-year-old little girl that is getting an EEG test and, most recently, for our associates during the pandemic. Paco knows just what to do. He will be dearly missed at Health First, but never forgotten. He will always be in our hearts,” Green continued.
“My relationship with Paco began when Dianna was my direct report leader several years ago. Being able to watch Paco interacting with patients and witnessing the joy and comfort that he provided, created a special place for him in my heart and I looked forward to when I would be able to spend time with him,” said Joelle Boccabella, Manager of Volunteer Services for Health First’s community hospitals.
“Paco has always been a bright spot in everyone’s day, and we all were amazed early on by his abilities and the way that he just knew when someone needed a little doggie affection and care. A Paco cuddle, light lick, or wag of his tail melts the stresses even on the most challenging days for our patients and associates.
“Paco’s ability to leave a lasting impression will forever be with the patients, visitors, associates, and the community. Even though Paco is retiring today, he will always be the cornerstone of the foundation that built the relationship with Canine Companions for Independence for the Health First Community Hospitals. Paco’s legacy will forever live on thru Jammer and other facility dogs that will always provide care and comfort to our patients, associates, and the communities that we serve,” Boccabella continued.