Someone You Should Know: Brightening the day with Junie

Published: Oct. 18, 2023 at 4:24 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Diane Kenkel is a nurse practitioner, at Sanford’s Family Practice Clinic in Mitchell, where her miniature poodle Junie, is usually by her side.

“It’s been about four years now that she’s been coming to work, and my patients really enjoy it When we got Junie, she was kind of a rescue. And she was very, very timid. She wouldn’t be in the same room with us. And I decided to take her to dog training,” said Diane.

Through the training, Junie came out of her shell, and became a certified therapy dog.

“So then, I started bringing her to work. First just a day or two a week. And then the kids, and the adults wanted her there everyday. And Junie loves to come to work. In the morning when I say I’m ready to go to work, she does her dance. When the patients are done, we take the leash off her, and she knows that her job today is finished, and she has a bunch of toys. And she starts running up and down the hallway, squeaking her toys. And the rest of the clinic knows were done for the day,” said Diane.

When Diane sees the patients, Junie plays a big role in the visit, especially for the kids.

“They focus on her, and don’t focus so much on what’s happening to them. Sometimes they’re concerned about Junie like if we look in Junie’s ears, it’s then much easier for me to look into the child’s ear. Sometimes they get down on the floor with Junie, and then I get down on the floor with Junie to look in their throat or listen to their heart. Even adults like to hold her when they get their flu shot, or when they get their blood drawn,” said Diane.

“She’s a really nice dog. And it’s really nice to pet her because she’s so soft. I just look at her. I’m distracted, so I barely even feel it,” said patient Brigston Nath.

“Junie always makes it fun, makes it less scary,” said Dixie Dewaard.

She’s also a big hit with the clinic staff too. For Junie, who’s seven, there’s a lot more work to be done.

“She has two personalities. Her professional persona is calm and obedient. And as soon as the patients are gone, she turns into a normal active dog. Some of the patients I think come to see her, rather than coming see me really,” said Diane.