It was on a Friday in December 2004 that Sheri Snider first noticed her beloved 15 ½-year-old dachshund, Sadie, wasn’t breathing normally. Quickly growing concerned, she brought Sadie to her family veterinarian, and ultimately to the NC State Veterinary Hospital to find out what was wrong. Soon, cardiologists determined that Sadie was suffering from a serious heart condition.
Informed that Sadie would need to remain hospitalized overnight, Sheri found it a very difficult decision be separated. Now a long-time volunteer for and supporter of the hospital, Sheri has learned a lot about the phenomenon of the human-animal bond that is an integral part of veterinary medicine. At the time, however, she just knew that it was heart-wrenching to leave her dear companion behind, even though the doctors and veterinary technicians were able, caring and quick to share information, and even though they promised to be in touch and available through the night if needed.
Sadly, the next morning a decision had to be made, and the Sniders had to love Sadie enough to let her go. But the compassion shown by the hospital staff instilled a desire in Sheri to do something to help others going through what she had gone through. She responded to her own loss by deciding to work as a volunteer for the NC State Veterinary Hospital — something that she has done regularly every Tuesday (except for occasional vacations) since January 2005. She says that it’s a decision that “has changed my life.”
Who would have thought that the place where I lost Sadie could become a source of so much joy. I think of it as her final gift to me…
Sheri and her fellow volunteers — some of whom have become close friends — circulate in the various waiting rooms in the hospital, and if they notice someone who appears to be stressed or suffering, they will gently engage in conversation and do what they can to comfort or encourage that person. Because NC State is the premier veterinary hospital for a multi-state region, many people will come from outside North Carolina, sometimes for days at a time, and in some cases Sheri and other volunteers will develop a continuing connection with these clients that lasts for the duration of their visit. For such people, it’s an especially welcome source of support during a trying time away from home. And being able to help hurting people in this way has been a source of tremendous satisfaction to Sheri, who says the experience has been “a blessing.”
In fact, one person Sheri met as a client of the hospital, Patti Jenkins, has since become a volunteer herself, as well a good friend and Sheri’s Tuesday compatriot.
“Who would have thought that the place where I lost Sadie could become a source of so much joy. I think of it as her final gift to me,” she says.
Four years after Sadie died, the Sniders acquired a new dachshund, Sophie, now a happy and healthy eight years old, and Sheri has found tremendous gratification in her volunteer work at NC State. The Sniders have also been generous in their support for the hospital and the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). They have purchased a number of commemorative bricks in the CVM’s Walk of Honor, and they have even endowed an examination room in the hospital’s Cardiology Service, which is now identified on the outside with a handsome plaque proclaiming it to be “The Sadie Snider Exam Room,” and featuring a framed photograph of Sadie on the wall.
Sheri regards her support for the NC State Veterinary Hospital, both as a donor and as a volunteer, as one of the most rewarding experiences of her life — one that allows her to provide help and encouragement to people who are facing exactly what she’s faced. It’s an inspiring story of transforming sorrow into hope, and a source of comfort for all who come to the NC State Veterinary Hospital.
~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine