Dog is 'chief happiness officer' at Atlanta Ronald McDonald Houses

Image 1 of 5

Betty Lou is one of the newest staffers at Atlanta's two Ronald McDonald Houses, working alongside her partner, Beth Howell, President and CEO of Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities. 

"Betty Lou is an actual staff member," Howell says.  "She has the title "Chief Happiness Officer."

The 3-year old Golden Retriever is a facility dog, trained by Canine Assistants in Milton, Georgia.

One of the Betty Lou's friends is Trenton Patrick, who spends his days a few blocks away in the day rehabilitation program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.  

Trenton is 10, and far from his South Georgia home, working to come back from a blinding headache June 27, 2018 that sent his life into a tailspin. 

 "He'd come to me in the middle of the day and told me his head was hurting," Mary Ann Patrick, his mother, says. "I thought he was whining, because he sounded funny. But, then he said his fingers were tingling, and I noticed he wasn't whining, he was slurring."

By the time Mary Ann Patrick got 911 operator on the phone, Trenton was in trouble.

 "He had lost all of the ability to function on his right side: his ability to walk, his arm, his ability to hold his head up," she says.

Trenton had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, a severe, often highly fatal, bleeding in his brain.

"At first we didn't know if he was going to live," Patrick says.  "And, then, once we know he was going to live, we didn't know what he was going to be left with, once he woke up."

When Trenton did wake up, he was in a pediatric ICU.

"It was a struggle for him to say 'mama,'" his mother says.

Now, Trenton spends all day, nearly every day, working to regain what he's lost.

And that's where Betty Lou comes in.

"If it's Tuesday or Thursday, the first thing he looks at me and says is 'Betty Lou!'"  Mary Ann Patrick says.  "We make a beeline for Betty Lou.  He wants to come over and love on her."

Two afternoons a week, Betty Lou waits for Trenton to get off the bus from Children's Healthcare.

They're tight. 

Because Trenton misses his own dog, an American Bulldog named Bruce, back home.

"We talk about what Bruce likes, what Betty Lou likes," Beth Howell says. "We hear so many stories of, 'Oh, we miss our dogs at home, or our pets at home.' So, Betty sort of fills that gap."

Trenton often shares his afternoon snacks with Betty Lou.

"She loves treats," Beth Howell says.  "Her favorite food is probably peanut butter."

Trenton still has a long road ahead.

"He's not finished," Mary Ann Patrick says.  "I feel like he's going to make a full recovery."

Until then, Betty Lou will be here, by Trenton Patrick's side.