Be courageous with your compassion

Mon, Jan 1 2018


Nurse. Educator. Dog whisperer.

When Sheila Hordal saw the three-legged husky-shepherd cross on a TV segment about rescue pets for adoption, she couldn’t resist. The nurse was looking for a dog suitable for pet therapy, but neither of her two beloved husky-shepherds, Trek and Duke, were a good fit. She wondered if this sick and abused tripod pup might be perfect for the role—it turns out he was.

“Trek, was supposed to be my pet therapy dog—he was cute, soft and cuddly, but he turned out to be too crazy,” she laughs. “Bazzinga is so loving and intuitive. What he brings to people is everything I wish I could bring as a nurse.”

As a nurse and educator, compassion and empathy guide everything Sheila does. Whether she’s interacting with patients or students, she is always looking for meaningful ways to connect because she knows the impact those interactions have.

“ Every time I go out with Bazzinga, I learn more about compassion, respect, dignity and hope.” 


“I make a conscious effort to get to know each of my students, because I had a faculty member make that effort to connect with me when I was a student at MacEwan, and I remember how it felt. I went through a really difficult time during my second year—a cancer scare—and she was so supportive. She even came to visit me in the hospital. That support had a huge impact on me.”

Being mindful of their impact as nurses is something Sheila stresses to her students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. She wants them to understand that how they approach their practice will make a big difference in the lives of the people they will encounter.

“How you connect with a person one time makes a lasting difference,” she says. “As nurses we could have 100 interactions a day with 100 different people, but each patient might only have 10 interactions a day with someone. How we approach each interaction makes a difference.”

Bazzinga offers Sheila another way to interact with people. During the past two years, they’ve visited local hospitals and homeless shelters, and she marvels at the way her three-legged friend can light up the lives of the people he meets. Even the most withdrawn and reluctant patients are drawn to the quiet comfort he offers.

“Every time I go out with Bazzinga, I learn more about compassion, respect, dignity and hope. I feel sometimes within our health-care system people lose hope, and need to feel some release from their situation. They spend their days in the hospital, stuck in a bed or sitting around. If we can ignite that one bit of hope or bring brightness to somebody, it makes a big difference in their outlook and how they perceive their health.”

Sheila Hordal is a nurse educator with the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Find out more at