Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - FRONT PAGE - Is­abelle Petrinic

HOS­PI­TAL-RID­DEN puppy lovers across western Syd­ney are in mourn­ing fol­low­ing the death of a beloved ther­apy dog.

Am­ber was eas­ily recog­nis­able, mak­ing her rounds at Ne­pean Hos­pi­tal ac­com­pa­nied by owner Dr Alan Oloffs.

The clever pooch died a fort­night ago. She was 14.

“Am­ber died un­ex­pect­edly (on Jan­uary 7) while we were on hol­i­days,” Dr Oloffs, a pal­lia­tive care physi­cian at the Ne­pean Can­cer Care Cen­tre, said.

“She was on her own hol­i­day with (Ne­pean Ther­apy Dog vol­un­teers) An­nemarie and Chris­tine Schus­ter in Kur­ra­jong.

“Am­ber col­lapsed in the morn­ing and was taken to the vet who found a large tu­mour in her heart.”

Ni­cole Cele­ban, of Leonay, said Am­ber was very much loved in the hos­pi­tal.

The Pets Charm­ing owner and mar­riage cel­e­brant is one of eight vol­un­teers who reg­u­larly visit Mt Druitt, Ne­pean, Black­town and Auburn hospi­tals and nurs­ing homes with their pet dogs.

She be­longs to Ne­pean Ther­apy Dogs In­cor­po­rated which be­gan in 1992 when An­nemarie Schus­ter vis­ited a dy­ing friend in Ne­pean Hos­pi­tal with her then best friend Bella, a golden re­triever like Am­ber.

In­no­va­tive doc­tors and nurses em­braced the pos­i­tive ef­fect Bella had on so many peo­ple and soon more two- and four-legged vol­un­teers were in­tro­duced to the hos­pi­tal, in­clud­ing Am­ber.

“My big boy (Gus), who’s now no longer with me, was my rea­son to start,” Mar­ion Palmer, of Pen­rith, said.

“Be­ing an ex-nurse I knew the ben­e­fits. Gus was in­cred­i­ble with the dis­abled. He knew to put the ball on their lap if they were in a chair.”

She said what en­cour­aged her to keep go­ing back was the re­sponse she re­ceived from pa­tients – “the way they smile, come to life”.

“Nurses have com­mented they keep talk­ing for days later about the visit,” Ms Palmer said.

To­day there are 15 four­legged vol­un­teers at Ne­pean Ther­apy Dogs.

“Now we’re rais­ing money to train the next gen­er­a­tion of train­ers,” Ms Cele­ban, one of two train­ers, said.

She raised $715 for Ne­pean Ther­apy Dogs over Christ­mas by or­gan­is­ing pro­fes­sional por­traits of dogs in a sleigh.

Ne­pean Ther­apy Dogs Inc vol­un­teers Amanda Tall (from left), Amanda Palmer, Ti­mothy Smith, Mar­ion Palmer, San­dra Gaha and Ni­cole Cele­ban with their spe­cial pooches and (right) much-loved Am­ber, Ms Cele­ban, of Pets Charm­ing, hands over a do­na­tion to Ms Palmer and two of the hard­work­ing ther­apy dogs.

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