Peconic Bay Medical Center caregivers spent time Thursday afternoon memorializing a caregiver of its own — a six-year-old German shepherd named Jesse — who had dedicated her life to helping others.
In between search and rescue trips helping to locating missing people, Jesse and her owner, Sue Condreras of Northville, could be found walking the facility’s grounds, offering palliative care to patients and skilled nursing facility residents.
Beginning in 2008, Jesse made more than 500 visits to patients and staff at PBMC, earning a Therapy Dogs International Gold award, one of the agency’s top awards, Ms. Condreras said.
Jesse died unexpectedly on Christmas night,after suffering Mesenteric torsion, a fatal twisting of the intestines that is most commonly seen in German shepherds.
The skilled nursing facility will incorporate German shepherd bookends at its Pegasus House Palliative Care Center so Jesse can continue to “guard and protect patients as she always had,” said Denise D’Ambrosia, the program director.
Ms. Condreras will also receive a plaque in recognition for their therapy work.
Among the guests celebrating Jesse Thursday afternoon were her trainer Laurie Carmody, and Ms. Condreras’ partner, Pat Sondgeroth of Riverhead.
Jesse saved Ms. Sondgeroth’s life one morning in 2009. Two dogs aggressively attacked them while they were out for a run. Jesse jumped in to protect Ms. Sondgeroth.
“Jesse took the attack,” Ms. Sondgeroth said. “If it wasn’t for her, I would have been pretty badly injured. She didn’t even think before jumping in.”
When asked what memory with Jesse sticks out in her mind, Ms. Condreras recalled a search and rescue mission.
“We were searching through trying terrain, swamps in New Jersey,” she said. “We were both just exhausted, and sat down on the ground. She leaned her head on me, and kissed me. There were so many of these fond memories.”
The American Kennel Club honored Jesse in January, just 11 days before she died, as a top search and rescue dog.
“She touched so many lives, and made so many people smile,” Ms. Condreras said.