MARION, Va. (Dec. 18, 2016) — On Christmas morning, Andy Overbay will get up early and put Santa hats on his furry friends, whose names are Bo and Ty. Then the three of them will drive over to Smyth County Community Hospital to visit the patients who didn’t make it home for the holidays.
For the last four years, Overbay and his dogs have visited the hospital every week, including Christmas day. This Sunday will be their fifth Christmas hospital visit in a row.
“Would you like to see the dogs today?” a hospital staff member asks on a recent Wednesday, accompanying the visiting trio to every patient’s door. Nine times out of 10, patients are thrilled to make small talk with Overbay and cozy up to his 80-pound pets.
“Mrs. Claus has been fattening us up,” Overbay responds to a patient who says she likes big dogs, before asking Bo if he can hear Santa coming outside? Bo obligingly leaps over to the window, standing on his hind legs to peer out over the frosty hospital grounds.
Overbay is a member of Chilhowie United Methodist Church. The ministry he has created — PAWS for Christ – grew out of his faith and a lot of years working as a dairy farmer, he says.