Bringing comfort

Meet Ray, the Hospice Center’s newest employee.

Like most, Ray wakes up in the morning, enjoys his breakfast, and heads to his job.

Ray works in Hospice Care at Southern Ohio Medical Center.

But there is one thing that sets Ray apart from the rest of the workforce – Ray is a dog. A golden-doodle to be precise.

“I’m the nurse manager at the outpatient hospice,” said Jenni Smathers, Ray’s host-mother. “So I work in the next building over, he rides to work with me every day and I drop him off, he works, and I take him home with me.”

Prior to Ray, comfort dogs lived in the facilities and were taken home with host-families on the weekend.

“They decided it’d be better if the dogs lived with someone,” said Smathers. “They can get depressed too, just like people, they need a normal life when they get off work.”

Ray is SOMC’s new hospice dog. He takes the place of Marley, who is now retired and continuing to live well. As SOMC’s third hospice dog, Ray will be on hand to visit with patients and their families. His job is simple: offer affection and compassion during difficult times.

“Like his predecessors, Ray is a valuable member of the hospice team,” Scott Hilbert of SOMC Hospice said. “He is very loving, and his presence is especially appreciated by patients who are used to the companionship of a pet at home.”

Ray has already had the opportunity to bond with several patients and their families.

“He’s been making his rounds and visiting, we have one patient who doesn’t really like to interact with people but yesterday, he must’ve thrown a ball to Ray at least 30 times,” said Smathers. “Of course he would go fetch it and bring it back. He just helps to keep people’s minds off things, and make them feel better.”

He also received a warm community welcome – an SOMC Facebook post introducing Ray received more than 200 shares within the first five hours.

“Ray has a great personality and is perfectly suited for this role,” Hilbert said. “We think he’s a joy to be around and I know that our patients agree.”

For more information, visit or like SOMC on Facebook at

Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley – Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.