Finding Hope and Healing in the Comfort of a 167-Pound Pet Therapy Dog

By Stephanie Florom

I am a self-proclaimed animal lover and I especially love big dogs. Not only is working with them what I do for a living as a veterinary technician, I also have three four-legged kids of my own.

In November 2017, I was pregnant with my first child. Due to complications–my water broke when I was just 21 weeks along–I was admitted to Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center and placed on hospital bed rest for almost eight weeks.

During my time at the hospital, I had a very special visitor who became very near and dear to my heart–a 167-pound Great Dane named Gabby.

Once a week, she would come to my bedside and let me love on her. Gabby’s handler, Dean, would share Gabby’s adventures with me. For those few minutes, my worries would melt away and I would forget I was on bed rest. I would feel normal again.

While Dean and Gabby were on Christmas break, I had my son Gage. Born eight weeks early, he was immediately moved to the medical center’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  I was discharged  a few days later. However, our story doesn’t end there.  When Dean and Gabby returned from being away, something amazing happened.

Let me start by saying dogs are smart! On Gabby’s first day back, she insisted to go to my room but Dean told her I wasn’t there. Gabby visited other patients that day and then made her way to the NICU, where she’s allowed to visit, but not see the babies up close. Gabby once again insisted on visiting a room. While Gabby is a highly trained therapy dog and listens very well, Dean repeatedly had to redirect her away from one particular NICU room. It was Gage’s room!

Not convinced that Gage was the reason Gabby was acting strange, the nurses let Gabby smell a baby cap that had been used by Gage and another cap that had never been worn. Gabby only wanted Gage’s hat.

For weeks, Gabby and Dean continued to visit us in the NICU, but Gabby wasn’t able to interact with Gage until recently. When they formally met, it warmed my heart at how excited Gabby was. She’s made a friend for life.

We are extremely grateful for the care I received while on bed rest and for the expert attention Gage has received as a patient in the NICU for the past 120 days.

If you’ve not been a NICU parent, it can be a roller coaster of emotions and exhausting, both physically and mentally. However, the visits by Dean and Gabby made a world of difference in my outlook and have helped me get through some very hard days. I honestly couldn’t have done it without them.

Thank you to Dean and Gabby and the other Montgomery Pet Partners pet therapy teams who always brighten my day. And, thank you to our team at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands. You all have been amazing caretakers on this journey.

The Richard Rivas, MD Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center provides specialized treatment in a patient- and family-centered care environment. Learn more about the services provided.


  1. This is such a touching story and really brings to light the memorable experiences we create here at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center. Amazing how intuitive Gabby, our pet volunteer Great Dane, is and how it impacted Stephanie and Gage.

  2. Wonderful write-up a great story and not only we love Jason, Stephanie & Gage but those dogs are amazing brought tears❣️❣️

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