Fostering Special Needs Dogs

Ellen Robinson rescues dogs through Heaven and Earth Animal Rescue Team

Ellen Robinson and her daughter, Ashley, foster dogs such as Bidawee, a black Chihuahua, and Beanie, a Pomeranian. Photo courtesy of Ellen Robinson.


Name:  Ellen Robinson

Position:  Administrative manager of Duke University Hospital Decedent Care Office

Years at Duke:  13

What I do at Duke: I was recruited to Duke Hospital to start the Decedent Care Office. We provide compassionate care to the families of patients who die at Duke Hospital. We share the who, what, where and when of things such as autopsies, medical examinations, funeral homes and programs like organ donation and the anatomical gifts program at Duke. We also connect them to other resources, like Bereavement Services. We handle an average of 1,400 deaths each year and also offer assistance to staff affected by these deaths.

A memorable day at work: A few years ago, I looked out of my office door into the hospital lobby and saw a fake black panther sitting on the edge of the fountain. The Carolina Panthers were doing a promotional photo and visit, and the team members were there with the panther.

When I'm not at work, I like to: Work with the Heaven and Earth Animal Rescue Team in the Triangle area. I have been a foster home for small dogs for seven years. I started doing this because it was something I could do with my daughter Ashley, who has cerebral palsy. I care mostly for old dogs and ones with disabilities. I currently have a senior Yorkshire terrier, an old blind toy poodle and a West Highland terrier with health problems. They stay with me until they find a permanent home or until they pass away.

My first ever job: I was a dishwasher at a BBQ restaurant my Dad managed. One of the perks was some of the best Brunswick stew.

If I had $5 million, I would: Take my family to Disney World and then use the rest to look into long-term care for family members and my animals.

If I could have one superpower, it would be: Multitasking. I want to be in multiple places in the same time because there's never enough time in the day.

What I love about Duke: Meeting so many wonderful people. Some only come in to my life for a brief time, others are long-term relationships. I'm just a small pebble in a large organization, but it is a great organization to be part of.

Something most people don't know about me:  I like scary movies.

The best advice I've received: Someone once told me "Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life."  From my job at Duke to being a mom of a special needs child to my work with dog rescue to a wonderful marriage of 32 years, that is true. They are all time consuming, but none of it is like work, because I love it all.