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Two brothers join St. Luke's growing team — as security dogs — thanks to generous donor

Security dogs Buddy, Mack and Bolt with security officers Ken Rivers, Frank Neumeyer and Jeremy Hill.
By Kelly Franson, News and Community
February 27, 2024

When Megan Lehto’s standard poodle, Reagan, gave birth to her first litter of puppies, she was determined to find them all wonderful homes.

She was looking for potential owners who not only appreciated that poodles are highly intelligent and train easily, but had done their research on the breed and were aware they would require regular grooming, which can be an added expense.  

When St. Luke’s security officer Frank Neumeyer reached out to Lehto to inquire about the price, she was excited about the possibility of two of her puppies not only finding loving homes, but finding a special purpose as St. Luke’s security dogs. 

Bolt is a key part in keeping all safe as St. Luke's Jerome's first security dog. And he also is a welcome sight for patients and employees alike.

There are currently 10 security dogs at work in St. Luke’s hospitals, trained to seek out harmful materials, skilled in de-escalation and providing comfort while adding another layer of security.

“I love my dogs very much,” Lehto said. “I didn’t want to just sell them to anybody!”

“I thought they would be great fits. The mom is an amazing dog.”

She told Neumeyer she wouldn’t sell him any of her poodles — but she would be happy to donate two to St. Luke’s.

“I just wanted them to have really good homes and I knew they had really great potential,” Lehto said.

One of Lehto’s dogs now has a good home with a loving family and a home-away-from-home at St. Luke’s Jerome.

“He lives with me and my family, including my two other dogs at home,” said St. Luke’s security officer Jeremy Hill of his new K9 companion and coworker, Bolt.

Hill is currently working with Bolt on basic obedience training as well as getting him used to the sights, sounds, smells and noises of the hospital environment.

“He is doing great and he’s incredibly intelligent,” Hill said. “He originally hated the echo in the stairwells, but we go up and down four or five times a day. He loves riding the elevator.”

Bolt also loves his new co-workers at the hospital, and they seem to be just as fond of him.

“Oh my gosh, they love it! They absolutely love it,” Hill said of the Jerome team’s reaction to having a dog at the hospital.  “Once I walk in, it’s all about him!”

Bolt and St. Luke's security officer Jeremy Hill in front of the Jerome hospital.

While Bolt is now working as the first security dog at St. Luke’s Jerome, his brother Buddy has joined the team at St. Luke’s Magic Valley.

“Buddy is very calm, very relaxed, very friendly — everybody is his friend,” said security officer Ken Rivers.

Rivers had experience with police K9s before joining St. Luke’s, but the role of a hospital dog is very different than a police dog. While Buddy and Bolt will be trained to detect explosives, a big part of their job is bringing comfort to both staff and patients.

“The temperament of hospital dogs is a huge factor,” Hill said. “Bolt is very gentle. Right now, he’s had a couple opportunities to interact in the hallways with therapy patients and we’ve had a couple little kids that have wanted to see him.”

Buddy is gaining similar experience in Twin Falls where he is learning from an expert — security dog Mack, a goldendoodle who joined St. Luke’s Magic Valley as a puppy in July 2021.

“Mack was the first working dog at St. Luke’s Magic Valley,” said Neumeyer, Mack’s handler. “I think he brings a lot of joy. People are usually pretty happy to see him and the hospital does a lot for him to keep him wanting to come back.”

The hospital staff not only provides the dogs with attention, affection and occasional treats, they’ve also donated tens of thousands of dollars toward their care and training via employee giving options.

Security officer Ken Rivers with Bolt's brother Buddy at St. Luke's Magic Valley.

“These security dogs bring us joy and bring our patients joy,” said Mujesira Kljucanin, surgical nursing manager at St. Luke’s Magic Valley. “They’re just amazing.”

Kljucanin was part of a team of St. Luke’s staff members from surgical, medical, cardio and ICU departments that recently presented a $3,500 check to the St. Luke’s security team.

While she hasn’t gotten a chance to get to know Buddy and Bolt very well yet, she knows the value they’ll bring having seen Mack in action.

“We have kids that come in and are in a stressful situation and then Mack shows up, and you can just see the smiles on their faces.”

“We’re so thankful to our co-workers who donate and to Megan Lehto for giving us this wonderful gift of two dogs,” said Neumeyer, who added that he hopes to grow the canine department even more in the future. “If we could have a dog here, at least one dog, 24 hours a day, every day, that would be the best-case scenario, because there’s just so many people that love having them around.”

About The Author

Kelly Franson is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.