Tate Hegstrom and Kovu are here to serenade anyone who could use a "bright light" during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

By Kelli Bender
May 15, 2020 05:01 PM
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You can lean on Tate Hegstrom and his husky Kovu during the emotionally difficult times brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Hegstrom, an administrative resident with HealthONE, a part of HCA Healthcare, has spent the past few months at North Suburban Medical Center in Denver helping the operations of the Colorado hospital smoothly react and respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19.

"It's been setting up different ICU capacity rooms and identifying where we can safely place patients if we have a surge," the 25-year-old told PEOPLE of his recent workdays, adding that there has also been a focus on "staffing appropriately and covering the needs where they are."

"We're making sure we keep and take care of our employees,' Hegstrom added. "HCA Healthcare has laid off zero employees during all this."

Along with working to protect the jobs of hospital staff, Hegstrom and his colleagues are always looking for opportunities to show their support for the medical world's frontline workers.  Hegstrom's program recently showed its appreciation for the hospital's nurses, doctors, cleaning staff, and other frontline employees with a video of different HCA Healthcare administrative workers signing "Lean on Me."

Tate Hegstrom
Credit: Tate Hegstrom

Hegstrom decided to put his own spin on his segment of the song, originally written and recorded by Bill Withers, by having 3-year-old Kovu sing along with him. In the clip, the "sassy" husky, named after the lead lion in Disney's The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, howls along as Hegstrom sings and strums the guitar.

It was easy to get Kovu to sign on for a duet since the husky often starts singing "anytime there is sort of a melodic thing happening, or a siren, or music, or other singing."

"All it takes is a little motivation, and he hops right in," Kovu's owner said. "If he starts, sometimes it can take him a while to stop."

Tate Hegstrom
Credit: Tate Hegstrom

Kovu's moment in the spotlight singing "Lean on Me" was meant to be an "internal thing," but Hegstrom's segment of the video was soon shared outside of HCA Healthcare and went viral.

"Seeing it extend beyond that has been so special," he said.

Hegstrom is happy to share some of the cheer he gets from spending time with Kovu every day.

"I'll spend 12 hours in the hospital, and when you come home after a long day and he gives you one of the big ol' howls, it is something special," the owner shared, adding that he and his wife Emily have found plenty of much-needed joy in the unconditional love of their furry friend.

Tate Hegstrom
Credit: Tate Hegstrom

Others are gettings sips of that love thanks to Hegstrom's adorable video and Kovu's Instagram page (@kovu.sings), which has photos of the pooch enjoying his favorite activities like hiking, meeting other dogs, and smiling.

According to his owner, Kovu has been loving all the new fans, since he is a canine that relishes being the center of attention: "When hiking, standing on top of the tallest thing he can find is, for some reason, a hobby of his."

Tate Hegstrom
Credit: Tate Hegstrom

Hegstrom hopes Kovu's moment of fame inspires others to take time to show their appreciation for those on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.

"Any sort of appreciation people can show online is helpful, including donating to hospitals, donating food or sending cards," he said.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.