Tell Us Your Pet Stories


Send us your pet stories.


Velma’s story

One heart speaking to another 

Rusty Knows Best! 

Bonnie (German Shepherd) story

Got to love that dog just a little bit more 

The Benefit Of Pets In A Melbourne Rehabilitation Centre 

The first pets as therapy visit



Velma’s Story – How This Program Began

I suppose I should start with my own story.

Let me begin at the beginning. Several years ago, I became suddenly ill with a vague and strange illness called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

C.F.S. is considered by some to be a virus of the brain resulting in muscular spasm and pain; flu-like symptoms; impairment of the immune system, thoughts, speech, memory, bodily movement and energy. I was feeling as if I had been ‘hit by a truck’. So, I went to bed and got up two and a half years later! It took a further four years or more to build up my strength, stamina and fitness.

For many years, I was unable to participate in any social or working activity. I felt imprisoned in my own body. I felt useless and my self-confidence and self-esteem was at an all time low because of this.

During this time Honey, my dear little miniature poodle, was my constant, loyal and loving companion. Having her with me all the time, to share my secret fears (of possibly never recovering) and hopes and dreams, kept me sane. Her loving kisses, cuddles and affection prevented loneliness and kept my spirits up.

When talking and communicating with people was difficult and frustrating, I could easily communicate, non-verbally, with Honey. I felt that she ‘just understood’ my thoughts and feelings. I promised Honey that when I was better, I would take her for the most wonderful walks to make up for all the ones she had missed out on.

As I slowly recovered I realest just how important and significant Honey was, in her constant companionship and in the aid of my recovery. And as a lifelong animal lover, I decided that when I was up to it, I would choose a career working exclusively with animals and promoting the animal/human bond.

When that time came, I joined an organisation which trained volunteers and their pets to visit health care facilities. Within a very short time I became aware of how ‘visiting pets’ could lift the spirits of people living without them and could change a clinical atmosphere into a room full of joy, just by being present. And with specific pet therapy, people could improve their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.

With my background as a human psychotherapist and knowing exactly what it feels like to be frail, ill, immobile, in pain, misunderstood and unable to clearly communicate, I knew that I could produce a professional and truly beneficial pet therapy program and Velma’s Pets As Therapy was founded.

It brings me great personal satisfaction to know that our Program is providing the opportunity for around 15,000.00 people per year, living without pets, to experience the purest pleasure, joy, stimulation, entertainment and companionship pet therapy can bring.

Velma Violet Harris
Founder and Manager Of Velma’s Pets As Therapy



One Heart Speaking To Another


The client’s face has been covered for privacy


This is a story from one of our volunteers about her wonderful experience on a ‘pets as therapy’ visit with a lady experiencing dementia.

There was a lady across the room looking for a way into her own world. She gently rocked, eyes down, whilst playing with the corners of her tray, which was attached to her chair and securing her safely there. Her stiff fingers circled the corners of the tray.

When I first introduced my dog Millie to Doris there was little response from her. But after a few visits and my persistent smiles, Doris allowed me to gently place her hand on Millie’s soft, furry back. I was thrilled though our eyes never met. With a little help, Doris enjoyed patting Millie in circling motions, which must have felt much nicer than the tray. Most times I visited the nursing home I was told, “not to bother” with Doris but I felt Doris could understand I was there and never left her out.

This continued for the best part of a year but then, wow! On today’s visit, when I placed Doris’s hand as usual on Millie’s back, Doris held my arm, pulled me closer and gave me full-on eye contact. At first she had a few tears, and then her face transformed into the most beautiful beaming smile. No words needed to be spoken between us. One heart was speaking to another. The message was loud and clear to us. Doris had loved our visits and some how today, she found a way to convey that to me. It was a wonderful experience and one, which shall remain with me forever.

I was so touched that I cried all the way home and I know Millie could feel my joy. On arriving home I felt compelled to write this story and a little poem.

Always, always bother
For when touched my friend, by another
Is overwhelming to the bone
You too will cry all the way home
Although far away and distant a part
I know a person who still has a heart

Cheryl Crabb and Millie (Bichon)
Velma’s Pets As Therapy Volunteer


Rusty Knows Best!

One of our trained pets as therapy dogs Rusty, a female Golden Retriever, was visiting a nursing home with her mum, a pets as therapy volunteer.

The Diversional Therapist suggested not visiting one fellow as he had just suffered a stroke and was semi conscious and he wouldn’t know Rusty was there. But Rusty had other intentions. Rusty refused to walk past the man’s room. Rusty’s mum used her instincts and asked the D.T. if Rusty could visit anyway. The three quietly entered the room. Rusty insisted on jumping up on the bed ever so gently and snuggled up under the man’s arm. The man responded by turning towards Rusty and put his arm around her. The two looked very comfortable and Rusty’s mum and the DT left the room to give the two some quiet time together.

About 10 minutes later, Rusty’s mum and the DT reentered the room to find the man had peacefully passed away in Rusty’s arms.

When the relatives were informed, Rusty’s mum was advised that the man had loved dogs all his life and they were reassured that his passing was how he would have wanted it.

Volunteer preferred to withhold her name.


A Short Story From A Pets As Therapy Canine Volunteer!

I have a confession: I love to work! If you ask me, I’ve been in training for work since the day I was born! My name is Bonnie and I am three-year-old German Shepherd. I am a volunteer with ‘Velma’s Pets As Therapy’ and I would like to take this opportunity to tell you all about my work. There is nothing more satisfying to me than bringing joy to people’s lives. When I walk into a children’s hospital and everyone greets me with smiles, laughter, kisses and cuddles, I think that I must have the best job in the world!

Marianne Caleno and Bonny (Black German Shepherd)
Velma’s Pets As Therapy Volunteers


Article in the Vizsla News July 2002


Yes, like you, I am madly in love with my dog, Brandy Las. But is it possible to love her just that little bit more? 6 months ago she became a fully accredited volunteer dog for Velma’s Pets As Therapy, (VPAT.) Now don’t be thinking this is just any old dog visiting any old place.

It starts with a full temperament assessment at Velma’s house, with plenty of poking, prodding and general touching, to make sure your dog is happy to be touched – not a problem for Brandy!! I was so nervous; I so badly wanted to do this. Before we went in I gave Brandy a little pep talk, “Now Bran, be a good girl sweetie, this is really important that you stay nice and calm and please especially not too much licking.” With that knowing look and eye contact she literally nodded her head and in we went.

There were several dogs before us, all very good, except maybe George the Dalmatian. Once he saw pretty little Brandy he went completely gah gah. After some serious bottom sniffing he regained consciousness and passed with room for improvement. I was feeling quietly smug about my pooch. I mean, her daily routine incorporates the basic commands, for goodness sake, give us something challenging pleeeaase!

I tried not to look too smug. Let’s just say we started really strong but finished a little too sloppy!! Her “sit” – perfect, “stay” – phenomenal, “wait” – extraordinary, her “heel” OK, but her “leave it”? Well, after eating the handful of treats for the “leave it” command 3 times in a row, she then decided to belt around the back yard on a hunting mission. Possibly looking for one of those exotic pheasants that we see in down town suburbia all the time? Finally on the third, “come” she came bounding over, not to me of course but to her new found friend Velma. Up she went jumping and licking like never before! I was quietly having a heart attack and apologizing profusely.

Velma just remained calm, laughing quietly and waiting for her to settle. Finally after Velma had been licked completely from head to toe, Brandy leaped without trepidation onto my lap, head held high in that regal Vizsla stance. I could read her mind, “Don’t worry mum she’s gonna love us”. I don’t know if it was the two strings of drool hanging from either side of her chops or the snorting into the air, but I just wasn’t feeling as confident as Brandy looked.

Well, Velma loved her and said she was exactly the sort of dog they wanted, drool and all! How could I have doubted her? After several months of training for both of us, we had our assessment at Nursing home in Carlingford, Sydney. At this home the patients are in all the stages of dementia. Yes it is very sad at first but when you meet all the wonderful people that are involved in this kind of work it really makes it so worthwhile. To see an elderly person’s eyes light up when they see you approaching, absolutely melts your heart.

The dog loves it, the patients love it, the staff love it and the relatives love it. It never ceases to amaze me how much joy Brandy brings to so many people, without even realising it. The assessment went very well, (not to mention the moldy biscuit under one of the beds. just got to keep working on that “leave it” command.)

We now have our very own facility to visit in Turramurra. We go once a month and are getting to know our patients very well. They absolutely adore Brandy and are all sitting in a group waiting for her to arrive. She brings so much pleasure and does it all without asking for anything in return. When I think of the love, fun and companionship that Brandy brings to our family and now she is sharing it with a group in the community that are so badly in need of companionship.

I know that yes, I can’t help but love her just that little bit more!

Sarah Waddington and Brandy (Vizsla)
Velma’s Pets As Therapy Volunteers


The Benefit Of Pets In A Melbourne Rehabilitation Centre

I was very excited to discover your web site. I am an activities co-ordinator in an out patient rehabilitation center, based in Melbourne. Our own pet program has been running for about one year. So far we have had cats, rabbits, goats and a horse. We have had such wonderful experiences with our clients and the animals and some very positive outcomes from our pet therapy program.
It is great to hear nurses comment on how a patient has not smiled in weeks, and then start “beaming” when they see one of the dogs.

The best moment for me was introducing a mini pony to a Farmer who had taken a massive stroke. The stroke had left him non-communicative and very agitated. When he saw the pony he became focused and relaxed, he brushed and fed the pony. It was just wonderful to see the effect.

We take photos of the pet visiting the patient and give a copy to the patient. I find the photo is really important to the patient, much more than I first realised. We have found staff particularly positive about the program.

Anyway its nice to have made contact with someone who can relate to the value of pets in the health settings.

Bye for Now

Leisa Cassidy
Activities Coordinator




Well here we are ahead of time
We are going to be great
We are going to be fine
Have I remembered the visit sheet
The lead, the scarf, a smile so sweet
I didn’t get lost the trip I planned
Nothing at all got out of hand
We’ve stuck closely to Velma’s plan
A walk the loo and an outstretched hand
As we are led into the activity room
Our job will begin now very soon
“Isn’t he lovely” They all say ooh & aah
Everything’s going all right so far
Louie cuddles up on a resident’s lap
I have to remind him he’s not here for a nap
He’s brushed and he’s patted and kissed
He returns it all with many a lick
The resident who says I don’t like dogs or I’m afraid
Soon come round to Louie’s way
Those big caring eyes
Say, “Pat me you’ll be surprised”
How gentle and loving I really am.
I like this job, that’s why I came
The visit is over we go on our way
But we’ll be back another day.

Irene Johnson and Louie (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel)
Velma’s Pets As Therapy volunteers




If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat plain food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

Then you are probably… The Family Dog!


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