Therapy Dog Lee Roy Brings ‘Howliday’ Joy to Families

Lee Roy, a 12-year-old miniature dachshund, has been volunteering as a therapy dog at Seattle Children’s for over a decade. He loves the holiday season, says his owner and handler, Gordon Knight.

A few little jingles from a furry friend can go a long way during the holiday season at Seattle Children’s.

Lee Roy, a 12-year-old miniature dachshund, can be seen trotting down the halls of the hospital in festive attire made complete with tiny bells that announce his delivery of warm cuddles to patients.

“Lee Roy loves the holidays,” said his owner and handler, Gordon Knight. “It’s almost like he knows it’s an extra special time to spread cheer to patients and their families.”

Giving the gift of smiles

Lee Roy enjoys walking, and sometimes wheeling in his carrier, through the halls of Seattle Children’s every Monday.

For over a decade, Lee Roy has been bringing joy to kids at the hospital.

Every Monday morning, Lee Roy gets a thorough bathing and grooming to get him spruced up for his favorite weekly routine.

With his bright orange Seattle Children’s scarf secured neatly around his neck, Lee Roy is ready to deliver tail wags and warm greetings to kids.

“We are given a list of patients to visit, then venture off to their rooms with Frank, our trusty volunteer who leads us to each room, hand sanitizer and towels in hand to make sure we don’t spread any germs,” said Knight.

Lee Roy spends time with each patient by sitting next to them in their beds. He savors the soft pets on his head, sometimes getting so comfortable that he rolls over on his back inviting a few gentle tummy rubs.

During the visit, Knight will share fun facts about Lee Roy, and show off some of Lee Roy’s talents such as hopping like a bunny and catching treats like an alligator.

“It’s delightful to see the smiles on their faces,” said Knight. “I think Lee Roy enjoys seeing it too.”

Hope during the holidays

Lee Roy gazes in awe of brave little 1-month-old Omar Solis, a baby who was flown to Seattle Children’s at just 4 days old for a medical condition that affected his intestines.

As a pint-sized canine, Lee Roy is able to get close and comfy with patients of all ages – that includes babies.

“While Lee Roy loves visiting all patients, he really seems to love babies,” said Knight. “I think it’s because he’s almost the same size as them.”

During this particular visit to the hospital, Lee Roy got giddy as he stopped by a room with a crib.

“Since Lee Roy’s so tiny, I have to carry him so he can get a close look at the baby,” said Knight. “Even though he can’t sit in the bed with them, he still likes looking at their little faces.”

Cradled in Knight’s arms, Lee Roy was able to tilt his head in awe to see 1-month-old Omar Solis, tucked comfortably in his crib.

Lee Roy shows off his talent of hopping like a bunny.

Although Omar was swaddled and sleeping soundly, his parents were amused to see Lee Roy quietly gazing at their baby, as if he was longing to get a few little cuddles in if he could.

“Lee Roy’s visit made our day,” said Omar’s mother, Maria Solis. “We’ve been here for several weeks now, and it really took our minds off of our worries.”

Omar was flown to Seattle Children’s at just 4 days old to get surgery for intestinal malrotation, a condition which occurs when a baby’s intestines are not secured in the abdomen correctly while they are in the womb. With malrotation, the intestines do not stay in the correct position and can get twisted.

“We were worried, but we knew that we were bringing Omar to the best place to get the care he needed,” said Solis. “He had to undergo another surgery after the first one, which happened just yesterday. We’re so grateful that everything went successfully and he’s healthy.”

With Omar’s recovery going smoothly, the family has one wish for the holidays.

“I hope we can bring Omar home for Christmas, so we can all be together as a family,” said Solis. “That includes our six dogs, so we’re pretty sure Omar will grow up to be an animal lover just like us.”

Lee Roy em-‘barks’ into the New Year

For the holidays, Knight plans to get some rest and relaxation while taking in serene Pacific Northwest mountain views with his wife.

“Lee Roy will be going with us of course,” said Knight. “He’s part of our family.”

For each and every patient family Lee Roy and Knight have met this holiday season, and throughout the year, they hope the holidays will be bring them comfort and happiness.

“Lee Roy and I have had a wonderful time meeting so many new and old faces at the hospital this year,” said Knight. “We wish them all the best this holiday season and for the coming year.”