THERAPY DOGS HELP PATIENTS
AMBER WILL BE MISSED BY HER PATIENTS
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.