Dying Whitley County man reunited with dog

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WHITLEY COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - An elderly man, hospitalized for several weeks, has only one wish: to see his dog just one more time.

Hospital workers in Whitley County say James Wathern wasn't doing well, so the hospital staff did all they could to make the man's wish a reality.

If you need proof of how strong the connection between a man and his dog can be, look no further than James and Bubba.

James Wathen was hospitalized more than one month ago. He's receiving treatment at Baptist Health Corbin.

"One of our social workers realized it was mourning the loss of the dog that was making our patient even worse and emotionally unhealthy, we pulled out all the stops and found the dog," Kimberly Probus, the Chief Nursing Officer at Baptist Health Corbin, said.

Bubba, an elderly, one-eyed chihuahua, was picked up by Animal Control after James was hospitalized.

People with the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter worked with hospital staff to find him and it turned out he was in foster care.

They were able to reunite Bubba and his owner on Saturday.

"There wasn't a dry eye in the room," Probus said.

"To see those two. To see James and Bubba get back together. It was heartwarming. It's why we do what we do," Mary-Ann Smyth, the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter President, said.

The impact was easy to see.

Prior to the meeting, Bubba wasn't eating and seemed emotionally distraught. Bubba's mood changed as soon as he saw James.

James began to cry when he saw his dog again, and his mood began to significantly improve.

Some say this is proof that a pet is much more than an animal.

"It's not an it. It's a little dog or a little cat. I can tell you from first hand experience they all have feelings," Smyth said.

James wasn't feeling well enough for any visitors on Monday but his dog will be back to visit in the near future.

The plan is to make the visits as regular occurrence.

Baptist Health Corbin will now begin implementing a pet visitation policy for situations like this.

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