Hospital reunites woman with dog after accident

Wyoming News Exchange

By Katie King

Casper Star-Tribune

Via Wyoming News Exchange


CASPER — Even after emergency responders covered Chris Leigh’s body with a blanket, his 11-year old yellow Labrador retriever wouldn’t leave his side. 

“Babe stayed at my husband’s feet,” Shelley Leigh said. “She must have known he was gone.” 

The Leighs, who were vacationing in Wyoming from Alabama, were involved in a fatal car accident Sept. 4 between Encampment and Saratoga. Chris Leigh, 71, died at the scene. Shelley Leigh spent about a week receiving treatment for her injuries at Wyoming Medical Center. 

Some of the earlier days are a blur, she recalled. “I had a concussion and I was in a lot of pain— I don’t think I was thinking straight,” Shelley said. “They told me Chris was dead and I remember asking about Babe. I couldn’t remember where she was.” 

Babe, who also injured in the wreck, was receiving care at Carbon County Veterinary Hospital. But Cari Hacking, the trauma coordinator at Wyoming Medical Center, promised to reunite the patient with her pet as soon as possible.

Patients who’ve experienced trauma need more than stitches and surgery, Hacking explained. Their mental and emotional well-being must also be taken into consideration. 

“It’s really important for us to do everything we can to help people heal,” she said. 

For some patients, that might mean sending in the hospital’s chaplain to pray with them, she explained. Others might want a staff member to sit by their side and listen. 

But for Shelley, Hacking — a fellow dog-lover — believed bringing in Babe would be beneficial. 

“(The hospital staff) put ourselves in her shoes, and we would need our dogs to help us through that,” she said.

After the vet clinic approved Babe for travel, Hacking said she drove to Carbon County and picked up the pup. Once they arrived at Wyoming Medical Center, the staff placed Babe in a wheelchair and rolled her up to see Shelley.

Babe had injured her back legs in the accident and was struggling to walk. 

Hacking said the Labrador— who was quiet and nervous during the drive— immediately perked up when she spotted her owner. 

“She started licking my arm,” she said. “I think she was trying to thank me for bringing her back to her family.”

Shelley recalled feeling a flood of relief when Babe was brought into her room. She said it was comforting to have her dog at her side and helped to reduce her anxiety.

Babe spent her days with Shelley and her nights recovering at Westside Animal Hospital. 

The dog’s recovery is going well, added Shelley, who was speaking to the Star-Tribune from her home in Montrose, Alabama. Babe’s legs are stronger and she no longer needs a wheelchair to move around. 

Chris and Babe were best friends who enjoyed hunting and fishing together, according to Shelley. She said her husband would wake up in the morning and “do whatever Babe wanted to do.” 

Chris wasn’t just beloved by his family, Shelley added.

“Everyone loved him,” she said. “He had a great affection for this world and was larger than life.” 

Shelley said she greatly appreciates everyone who cared for her and Babe. It’s painful to lose your husband, she said, but having support made it bearable. 

“The people in Wyoming are the nicest people in the world,” she said. “Everyone went out of their way to help us.”


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