Helping Hands: Pawsitive impact

May 3, 2024 • 3 min. read | By Amy Kilgore Mangus

"I knew an hour into fostering Bernie that he wasn’t leaving,” Lisa Quigley said.


Bernie is a 7-year-old greyhound Quigley adopted from Greyhound Friends of North Carolina. In their retirement – Bernie from the racetrack and Quigley as an echocardiographer in New York – the duo has volunteered at Novant Health New Hanover Medical Center and Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center for the past three years.


“Bernie has a calming personality,” Quigley said. “And I wanted to get back into the hospital. I feel comfortable in that environment. It’s like home to me.”


Quigley enrolled Bernie in Canine Good Citizen, a 10-skill test that teaches good manners to dogs and responsible dog ownership to their owners. Bernie progressed to the advanced level and tested to become a therapy dog.


Twice a week, the duo travels from Rocky Point to volunteer in the lobby, patient rooms, and waiting rooms. Patients and employees are greeted as they come and go. And Bernie offers much-needed stress relief for medical students during their lunch break.


“As I walk in, I hear ‘Bernie’s here!’ Quigley said. Word spreads quickly that Bernie is on the hall. “Bernie walks in and the patients’ faces light up. It’s like the sun has come out and they are just so happy.”


Being hospitalized can be isolating, particularly for those who don’t get many or any visitors.


“Some patients cry when they see Bernie,” Quigley said. “They hug, kiss and pet him. It means the world to them to interact with us. And for me, talking with patients was the best part about my job when I worked in a hospital.”


While many know their faces, many aren’t aware of the battle Quigley is facing behind closed doors. She spends additional time at the hospital receiving treatment for cancer. But that hasn’t slowed her down.


“It was rough in the beginning,” Quigley said. “But after a couple treatments, I have a better command on things. We don’t miss any volunteer visits.”


It’s sometimes difficult, but Quigley said Bernie gives her a reason to wake up and leave the house.


“Bernie gets very excited when I say we’re going to the hospital,” Quigley said. “The hospital has been very supportive and compassionate. It helps to have such a huge support system at both hospitals.”


Bernie accompanies Quigley to her treatments.


Quigley was recently recognized with a Guardian Angel pin for her volunteer work at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center. 


“That was a total shock,” she said. “I was honored, but a bit embarrassed because I’m sure other volunteers have contributed more.”


While Bernie is compensated with treats from the staff and an occasional pup cup from the Novant Health NHRMC Port City Java, Quigley says the joy of volunteering at a hospital is worth much more than goodies or a salary.


“Everyone should volunteer and know what it’s like to give your time and the happiness it can bring,” she said. “It’s a rewarding experience.”