“Bubba!”

This is a name you will hear exclaimed throughout the Womack Army Medical Center on most Thursdays.

A valued member of Team Womack for the past five years, Bubba has a schedule he maintains once a week at the Fort Bragg medical center.

He makes rounds, visits patients and offers a bit of hope for many in need of a small token of care when it may be needed the most.

He is not a doctor, nurse or chaplain.

Bubba is a black miniature poodle. His handler is Kathleen Butler, a volunteer with the American Red Cross Pet Visitation Team.

“Most people don’t know me by name,” said Butler. “I am known around Womack as Bubba’s mom and I am ok with that.”

When Bubba and Butler arrive at the medical center on Thursday mornings the reaction from the staff is almost immediate.

Cries of welcome erupt from all around the miniature poodle who sports a Womack ID and “Braggin’” Button attached to his service dog vest.

He goes to each person allowing each of them to have a few moments petting or greeting him. The mood of every room and hallway he passes through grows joyful.

As he makes his way into the Pharmacy area, Butler takes more charge of Bubba’s interactions asking people who are waiting on prescriptions if they would like a visit from Bubba.

“The answer is normally a ‘yes,’ but some people aren’t use to dogs so we don’t want to scare them,” said Butler.

Making his way through the intensive care unit’s waiting area Bubba seems to have an instinctive drive to the people who are in most need of his company.

Many of the people in the waiting area are tired and emotionally drained but seeing the miniature poodle brings a gleam back into their eyes.

With their permission Bubba comes over and puts his front paws on their laps. After a few pets to his head, Bubba is normally in the laps of his visitors.

According to Butler, it is not uncommon to see some of the people he visits get emotional. There is something about having a small dog on your lap that helps people process through their current state.

As Bubba comes to patient’s doorways, Butler, as always, gets permission to enter the rooms. Patients who were just sitting quietly seem to come alive when he enters the room. Womack nurses see a direct connection to the morale of the patients and Bubba’s visits.

“Seeing a dog lights you up when you are in the medical center,” said Womack Clinical Nurse Specialist Thea Hines. “After Bubba leaves many patients ask, when is he coming back?”

At the end of his rounds Bubba has normally seen between 60 to 90 patients and staff.

Bubba’s journey to Womack was not as simple as Butler adopting him and just showing up at the medical center.

He had to go through several levels of training to earn his service dog vest and become part of the RCPVT.

Bubba’s pedigree includes the K-9 Good Citizen Certificate and he is certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

The RCPVT has been a part of WAMC for the last 18 years.

The team currently has three dogs visiting different facilities and is in the process of training a Great Dane.