(TMU) – Harley, a friendly one-eyed pug dressed from head to toe in a fluorescent green raincoat, yellow booties and goggles, has become the latest hero in Mexico – becoming a much-needed therapy mascot and ally to the exhausted and stressed-out doctors on the frontlines of the battle against the novel coronavirus.
As the world copes with a major pandemic on a scale that hasn’t been seen in over a century, people have struggled to maintain their bearing and manage their mental well-being. But for doctors, nurses, and other medical workers, the health crisis has been especially trying – with depression, anxiety, insomnia and fear gripping emergency responders coping with a wave of COVID-19 patients.
Enter the three-year-old Harley, also known as “el Tuerto” – which roughly translates to “the one-eyed boy” – who has become a crucial member of the psychiatry and neuropsychology service at the National Medical Center 20 de Noviembre in Mexico City, an epicenter of the virus in the country.
México tiene un nuevo héroe canino. 🐶❤️ Este es Harley, el pug tuerto que trabaja en el Centro Médico Nacional 20 de Noviembre. Harley es coterapeuta de su dueña, la neuropsicóloga clínica Lucía Ledesma, y apoya al personal médico que sufre de ansiedad o burn out. 😍
— Periodic (@periodicmx) May 15, 2020
Animal Politico reports that Harley’s owner, neuropsychologist Dr. Lucia Ledesma Torres, began using the pug as a “co-therapist” that could play with the doctors and nurses at the hard-hit hospital, bringing a smile to the exhausted healthcare personnel during one of the most difficult moments facing the country.
For years, the dog had already been providing to Ledesma’s patients who suffered psychiatric and psychological conditions, drawing out feelings of empathy from those who play with him.
VIDEO: Wearing tiny yellow boots, goggles and a protective suit, Harley "el Tuerto" — a pug trained as a therapy dog — begins a new journey to relieve the stress of medical staff fighting the novel coronavirus at a Mexico City hospital 🐶 pic.twitter.com/TalvaGRUDo
— AFP news agency (@AFP) May 14, 2020
But now, as Harley strolls through the hallways of the hospital in Mexico’s capital with shifts starting at 5 a.m., the pug plays a crucial role helping to “dampen the psychological, affective, and psychic stress” of healthcare personnel facing the emergency, Ledesma explained.
The pug is providing crucial psychological relief to medical staff who can spend just a few minutes petting, cuddling, pampering and playing with the affectionate little pug – providing some much-needed medicine for the souls of those facing a draining, exhausting shift at the hospital and spending time away from their family and friends.
It’s not a job for just any pup, Ledesma explained to EFE news agency. Therapy animals need to have characteristics such as a friendly personality that allows for close physical proximity while also being well-behaved, enjoying continual social contact, and being quick-learners.
And while Ledesma admits that this has been her most complicated tasks due to the specific conditions created by the pandemic, Harley’s work has resulted in a “decrease in symptoms of anxiety and stress” among hospital staff. Because of this, Harley may turn out to be a model for new therapeutic approaches at other hospitals throughout the country, Ledesma added.
“The responses we see have exceeded our expectations. We expected a favorable response but not at this level … The staff reacts with surprise, curiosity, they play with him, they make video calls with relatives [along with Harley] and it brings them closer together. The effects have been immediate.”
#VIRAL 🐶💙 Él es Harley "el Tuerto", un perro pug que alivia el estrés del personal médico que lucha contra el Covid-19 en México. Conoce su historia.👉🏻 https://bit.ly/2WTlT7E
Harley has skyrocketed to popularity in Latin America and across the world since making his debut world, with children as far away as London drawing images of the valiant pup
He’s also become Mexico’s most celebrated mascot since Frida the rescue dog, a yellow Labrador and Mexican marine K9 who also donned boots, a vest and googles to help save dozens of lives following the devastating Sept. 19, 2017, earthquake in Mexico City. While Frida recently retired, murals depicting the valiant rescue canine can be seen throughout the capital while in nearby Puebla City, a statue has been built.
Once the crisis passes, we’re sure that Harley – like Frida – will also be remembered as a tiny hero who helped a nation get through one of the greatest challenges it’s faced in modern times.
What did we do to deserve dogs? https://t.co/JbVPd3eeZ1
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) September 23, 2017
Harley el Tuerto, visitando al personal del área más complicada del hospital. pic.twitter.com/nvIJ8eyqUh
— Particle man (@Yusdan) May 13, 2020