Updated June 14, 2023 - 12:21 pm
Nurses and children were greeted Friday morning by the energetic jingle of therapy dog Deke-Henri Furry’s collar as he and owner Rick Williams visited the children’s oncology unit at Summerlin Hospital.
Williams and Deke are regulars at the hospital, as was Bark-Andre Furry, Deke’s brother and beloved unofficial Golden Knights mascot, who died earlier this month.
Bark was a staple of the Golden Knights community and adored by fans — as well as children in the hospital.
Following his brother’s death, Deke is picking up Bark’s mantle in more ways than one.
Sense of normalcy
Deke, a Jack Russell terrier who turned 4 years old in May, was excited to see the children and nurses Friday, accepting pets and cuddles along the way.
Parents watched as Deke played with their children and brought smiles to their faces.
“Having Deke around brings our son a piece of home,” said Heather Farley, whose son Zachery Farley is a patient at the hospital. “It takes his mind off of everything that’s going on here and it just helps him relax and puts a smile on his face.”
There are 14 teams of therapy dogs at Summerlin Hospital. They take morning and night shifts, ensuring a day doesn’t go by when a therapy dog is not available for patients.
The nurses in the unit are always excited to see Deke because they know what he means to the kids.
Not many pictures from my rounds at Summerlin Hospital today.
I spent most of my time doing an interview with the @reviewjournal They’re writing an article about my therapy dog duties and some things about my brother Bark!
Have a great weekend everyone!
~ Deke🐾#TherapyDog pic.twitter.com/dRXlckNMQm
— z – Deke (@DekeHenriFurry) June 9, 2023
Child specialist Mary Helen said children on the oncology floor are often faced with heart-wrenching diagnoses, and many don’t have a lot of control over what’s going on with their treatment.
Having therapy dogs come into the hospital makes their stay a little more normal, gives them a positive outlet and makes their treatment more enjoyable.
“It seems quite simple, but it’s really very impactful,” she said. “These dogs come on a weekly basis, so the kids really get to know them. Every week it seems like we have our patients ask, ‘When is Deke gonna be here?’ They become part of their treatment.”
Williams, Deke’s owner, appreciates what Bark was able to bring to the community — and what Deke is continuing to bring.
“I had fallen in love with volunteering, and I wanted to continue with it beyond Bark,” he said. “Deke, like Bark, has provided me an opportunity to give back to the community, interact with families in their time of need and he also enables me to be part of the team at Summerlin Hospital.”
When the Knights came to Las Vegas, Williams started a Twitter account and made an online persona for his dog, Fenway. That persona was Bark-Andre Furry, named for goaltender and essential member of the inaugural Knights lineup Marc-Andre Fleury.
The persona was intended to be a means to interact with Golden Knights fans through Twitter, but when Williams bought the dog a Golden Knights uniform, he exploded online.
“This all started with Bark,” Williams said.
Bark’s Twitter page garnered a huge following, bringing him notoriety among fans, including those going through hard times.
Williams recalled one young Knights fan who was having open-heart surgery at Sunrise Children’s Hospital, whose mother asked for Bark to visit.
“Bark was a natural,” Williams said. “He took to it right away.”
Williams became so impressed with how at ease Bark was with patients, that he wanted them to come back on a regular basis. He found out that Bark required special qualifications to be a therapy dog.
Bark received his certification and applied to be a part of Summerlin Hospital’s therapy dog program, where they’ve been going twice a week since 2019.
Williams saw the impact Bark was having, and given his advanced age, made the decision to get Deke, who is named after the hockey term for “decoy.”
Deke has since been able to pick up where Bark left off by making children’s days brighter.
While Williams misses Bark, he is grateful and appreciative that he is able to still help children and their families going through hard times.
“I couldn’t imagine not doing this,” he said.