Sick elderly man makes 'complete turnaround' after emotional reunion with dog

Staff at a US hospital secretly took the pet in to visit his owner

A 73-year-old man who had stopped eating and was so frail he could barely speak has “done a complete turnaround” after being reunited with his dog in the US.

James Wathen had to whisper to a nurse that he missed his pet, a one-eyed Chihuahua called Bubba, and the care team resolved to reunite the pair.

But hospital rules banned the admission of pets, so staff had to secretly work with the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter where his pet had been sent during his hospital stay.

When they managed to sneak the pet into Baptist Health Corbin hospital, Kentucky, they captured the emotional reunion on video.

Bubba leapt up on his owner and began licking his face as Mr Wathen stroked him gently.

Kimberly Probus, the chief nursing officer at Baptist Health Corbin, told local television station WKYT staff realised mourning the loss of the dog was making his health “even worse”.

“There wasn't a dry eye in the room” during Saturday’s reunion, she said.

Mary-Ann Smyth, from the animal shelter, said the dog had also stopped eating around the time they were separated.

“They didn’t think James was going to make it,” she told NBC.

“[Mr Wathen] has done a complete turnaround. He's speaking, he's sitting up, he’s eating. He doesn't look like the same guy, and the dog is eating and doing better now, too.”

Bubba has now visited his owner several times in hospital and staff said they have both made a “tremendous improvement”.

The hospital is now ensuring they can have regular visits.