Kristyn Farley, a patient at East Tennessee Children's Hospital and for whom Farley is named, passed away last year

By Amy Jamieson
March 29, 2017 04:58 PM
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Credit: Courtesy East Tennessee Children’s Hospital

The person who paved the way for Farley the dog to become East Tennessee Children’s Hospital’s first-ever full-time facility support animal never got to meet her — but she’ll always have a connection to her.

Farley, a golden retriever puppy born on Oct. 12, 2016, was named in honor of 16-year-old Kristyn Farley, a teenager known for her love of fashion, cooking and obsession for Lord of the Rings.

“The idea for the hospital to have a facility dog came from oncology patient Kristyn, who passed away last year,” said the dog’s caretaker and handler Sue Wilburn, who is vice president of human resources for hospital. “Kristyn had a passion for dogs and greater access to them while in our care. That’s why we chose to name Farley in Kristyn’s honor.”

Kristyn’s idea became a reality when Christina Ryskamp, store leader at a PetSmart in Knoxville, nominated the hospital to receive a grant from PetSmart Charities. The charity approved a grant to help the hospital hire the dog, and a fund to cover daily expenses for Farley was set up by hospital volunteers.

Credit: Courtesy East Tennessee Children’s Hospital

“For years, our team has worked with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital to collect and donate plush toys to bring a smile to the faces of its pediatric patients during the holiday season. Seeing the reaction of those children inspired us to want to do more,” Ryskamp said in a statement. “By helping the hospital secure its first full-time facility dog, we know Farley will be able to make a difference every time she interacts with hospital staff or enters a patient’s room. It’s an honor to be a small part of something that will make a big impact for years to come.”

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This working dog’s full-time comforting gig — which will include aiding in stress management, social interaction and boosting morale for employees, the hospital says — starts off gradually. She’s hanging out in Human Resources now and will soon start a six-week puppy training program to learn basic cues and other skills.

Next, she needs to complete a comprehensive training program, undergo temperament evaluations, and celebrate her first birthday before she can interact with hospital patients.