Volunteers' Voice

News for and about the Visiting Pet Program

February 2020 Volume 19, Issue 3  

Take Note! 
Tara's Toast to Volunteers 
  Volunteer Appreciation Picnic
 Sunday, March 8, 2020
Backyard at The Kamp  2317 Hickory Ave 
Harahan, LA 70123
  Mark Your Calendar
New Volunteer Orientation
May 30, 2020
  10:00am to 12:00 pm
June 14, 2020
2:00pm to 4:00 pm

 Harahan Senior Center
 100 Elodie
  Pre-registration required
Contact Claire Sommers at [email protected] to register

Pet/Handler Evaluation
July 25, 2020
 Harahan Senior Center
    100 Elodie
 Pre-registration required
Contact Barbara Hyland to register at
[email protected]  
 if you would like to have an additional pet tested.

Re ading To Rover  
  On the East Bank
   Held on the third Tuesday of each month at the East Bank Regional Library
 4747 W. Napoleon in Metairie
 [email protected]  
 to confirm your slot at any of these
Reading To Rover
Happy Retirement
The following VPP members recently retired their pets from service to the community. Our sincere thanks goes to:
Joy Sturtevant retired "Benny". Benny joined the VPP in 2012 and was a regular at Chateau Living, St. Margaret's, Reading to ROver, and MSY K9 Krewe.

From Benny -- "I have been stealing the media limelight for years - New Orleans Magazine, the Advocate, TV News...Time for one of my pals to get a chance at fame. I have had trillions of pats, thousands of books read to me, and am on 100's of person's phones. I've worked care facilities, camps, conventions and concourses. Retirement will be ruff. My vet still prescribes excessive dosage, child hugs, and walk, walk, walk. My person promised she'd find me something to do. Unfortunately there will be a delay in the Joie person boxer legacy with VPP.  My brother, while beautiful and snuggly, is not up to the job."

Kaitlin Joerger retired "Hank". Hank joined the VPP in 2016 and was a regular at Chateau de Notre and Children's.

From Kaitlin --- "Hank thoroughly enjoyed his visits and was a regular at Children's Hospital.
He loves everyone he meets and was happy to spread his smile to the patients and staff of Children's Hospital.
He is now enjoying retirement and spending a lot of time napping!"

Susanne Christensen  retired " Harper Lee ". Harper Lee joined the VPP in 2015 and was a regular at Colonial Oaks, Children's, Reading to Rover, and MSY K9 Krewe.

From Susanne --- "I appreciate the opportunities that Harper Lee has had through Visiting Pet Program. Over the past four years, it has been such a pleasure to work with her as she touched lives at Colonial Oaks, Children's Hospital, the New Orleans airport, universities, summer camps, and conventions. She even offered a moment of "normalcy" to evacuees from the August 2016 floods in and around Baton Rouge. We totaled more than 4,500 miles together, and Harper Lee earned her AKC Therapy Dog (THD) title just from her airport visits.
I will always remember the moment at Children's Hospital when Harper Lee visited with a young girl who was struggling with motor skills. The girl tried and tried and tried to reach out and pet Harper Lee. We took our time, and when that sweet girl's hand finally touched Harper Lee's ear, the smile on her face and on her mother's face made me love my dog more than I ever could have imagined."

Our Deepest Sympathies

Mike Azzarello who lost his beloved dog "Olive Oyl." Mike
and Olive Oyl joined the VPP  in 2011.   Olive Oyl retired in 2017.
Mike has continued to volunteer with the VPP as a buddy

and to 

Judy Haber Stone who lost her much loved "Guiness".  Judy and
Guinness joined joined the VPP in 2011.

and to 

Megan Jespersen who lost her beloved " Daisy." Megan and Daisy joined the VPP in 2016.

and to

Tom Pelle who lost his precious Golden Retriever," Miley." 
Tom and Miley joined the VPP in 2018 and were regulars at St Margaret's.

About the
Visiting Pet Program

The Visiting Pet Program is an all volunteer 501 (C)(3) non-profit animal assisted therapy organization serving Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.

For the past 34 years, the volunteers of the VPP have lived up to their motto of "Bringing Love and Leaving Smiles" to the residents of nursing homes and hospitals.

Our literacy project, Reading to Rover, offers young readers the opportunity to practice their reading aloud skills to the gentle therapy dogs.

If you would like to make a donation to the Visiting Pet Program, please click on the button below or mail your check to  P.O. Box 24748, New Orleans, LA 70184-4748 . Please note if your donation is in memory of a person or a pet. We will be happy to send an acknowledgment of your donation to the family. Please include the name and address to send the acknowledgment. Because we are a 501(C)(3) organization, your donation is tax deductible. We are an all volunteer organization. Your donation goes directly to the support of our mission. 


Thank you  



Happy New Year! We have had a busy start to the new year. Our January evaluation resulted in 11 new volunteers with their pets passing the evaluation. Welcome our new teams as you see them on their probationary visits this spring. In addition to our new teams, we had several current members join us on a very stormy Saturday for their re-certification workshop! Thank you to everyone who came out. It was a great opportunity to meet and get to know our new teams better along with sharing stories and experiences.

You can read more about our new teams in the New Volunteer section below.

In addition to the January evaluation and workshop, we're planning our annual volunteer appreciation picnic, Tara's Toast to Volunteers! In honor of the kindness and generosity of Madeline Deidre Burns, the Annual Meeting is named for her beloved Sheltie, Tara.

Our meeting is a wonderful event enjoyed by our teams and their families. We use this time to celebrate our teams and our mission with food and festivities. VPP provides everything; come out and enjoy a lovely afternoon with your family and VPP dog. This year's event is Sunday, March 8th at the Backyard of the Kamp. If you haven't already done so, please register by going to this link. Additional details can be found there.

*Adult beverages will be available at a cash bar inside The Kamp.

The Happy Photo Booth will be back again this year! Photos will be printed on-site for a keepsake of good friends and even better pups.

We look forward to seeing you all on March 8th! In the meantime, continue to bring love and leave smiles on your visits this spring. We are humbled by your dedication to the patients, residents and travelers we visit.

See you on March 8th!
Nicole Parks
President, with thanks to Stacey Warnke Photography for the great picnic photo below.
Meet the New Volunteers
May Chynces and Monty, the Pug. May is employed with Ochsner in Neurosurgery. Monty enjoys the company of people as well as other animals.

Courtney Cheek Couvillon with Bo, the Lab Mix. Courtney is a speech-language pathologist, working as a Learning Specialist with 8-12 graders at Country Day. Courtney's hobbies include water activities, reading and pilates. Bo accompanies Courtney to school once a week and is a comfort to students and faculty.  
Sherry Gamble with Hope, the Shih Tzu Mix. Sherry is recently retired from the Jefferson Parish School system and is looking forward to volunteering with VPP. Hope is registered as an emotional support dog and loves to meet people, especially children.  
Cindy Hoerner with Elby, the Mini Dachshund. Cindy has been an Occupational Therapist for 39 years. Cindy volunteers with NAMI, National Alliance Mental Illness as a support group facilitator. Elby loves to socialize with everyone, especially when she races at Oktoberfest.

Denise Shepard with Lucy, the Terrier Mix. Denise is retired from Vanderbilt Medical Center where she was involved with therapy dog and handlers. Lucy loves people and likes to go shopping with Denise.



Shari Vicente with Sebastian, the French Bulldog. Shari is a Nurse Practitioner at Ochsner Baptist, specializing in sleep medicine. Sebastian has participated in private basic and advance obedience classes. Sebastian socializes by visiting restaurants and coffee shops.

Ellen Wall with Max, the Shih Tzu. Ellen is retired and is an active volunteer in her church. Hope is a friendly dog and loves to be with people.


Kelly Zimmermann with Miss Josie, the Black Lab Mix. Kelly is a mother of three girls. Kelly works one day a week as a speech language pathologist at Tulane Medical Center. Miss Josie loves people, being petted and going to the dog park.

Current Volunteers Add a Pet
Connie Back with Thunder, the Boxer. Connie has been active in VPP many years with her Boxers. She is always willing to assist on evaluation day, our annual picnic/meeting and events to promote VPP. Thunder is well-trained thanks to Connie and her training classes. Thunder is outgoing and loves people.

Brenda Chetta with Rudy Guiliani, the Shih Tzu. Brenda is a retired nurse anesthetist. Brenda is an active volunteer with JPAS, Leading Ladies Guild and Divine Mercy Altar Auxiliary. Rudy loves people and knows how to 'work a room' with 25 people at the house. Rudy also enjoys Pet Fest.

Diane Smith with Molly, the Standard Poodle. Diane has been an active member of VPP for many years, volunteering extra time with VPP functions as well as a valuable member of the Buddy Program. Molly is a seasoned traveler between Metairie and Santa Fe. Molly loves to be petted and going for walks.

Donna Williams with Tinker, the Chihuahua Mix. Donna is an Associate Dean at LSUHS New Orleans School of Public Health. Donna has been an active member of VPP for four years and also a member of our Buddy Program. Tinker enjoys going to Lafreniere Park and loves to snuggle.



What is a Service Dog?
Service Dogs are trained to perform tasks and to do work that eases their handlers' disabilities. Working as part of a team with their disabled partners, service dogs help them attain safety and independence. It is very important to note that these dogs are not for petting as it could prevent them from performing their job correctly. Most service dogs have a "no petting" policy established by their owners.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels. Additional laws such as the  Department of Transportation's Air Carrier Access Act, the Housing and Urban Development's  Fair Housing Act, and the  Federal Rehabilitation Actprotect the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in a wide variety of circumstances under which the ADA may not be applicable.
What is a Therapy Dog?
Therapy dogs also receive training but have a completely different type of job from service dogs. Their responsibilities are to provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than their handlers. These dogs have stable temperaments and friendly, easy-going personalities. Typically, they visit hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes and more. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are encouraged to interact with a variety of people while they are on-duty including petting the therapy dog.
Therapy dogs may also visit schools, day cares, group homes and rehabilitation centers. Their roles vary from dogs who give learning disabled children the confidence to read out loud, to actively participating in physical rehabilitation therapy. In some cases, a therapy dog will work in an establishment exclusively, such as a psychotherapy practice.
Therapy dogs may be trained by just about anyone, but must meet set standards to be certified and registered and actively participate in the program. They are usually handled by their owners, but in some cases of Animal Assisted Therapy, the therapy dog may be handled by a trained professional.

(source:  www.therapydogs.com)

Guardian Angels

Donations were received from Lee Gaffney, Bob Klare, and Barbara Hyland in memory of Mike Azzarello's dog, Olive Oyl

A donation was received from Claire Sommers in memory of Chaz, pet of Helen Hester
Dnations were received from Claire Sommers and Barbara Hyland in memory of Daisy, pet of Megan Jesperson 

A donation was received from Claire Sommers in memory of Miley, pet of Tom Pelle

A donation was received from Kevin Hand in memory of Gerald "Bec" Becnel father of Danna Morris

A donation was received from Spina Bifida of Greater New Orleans

A donation was received from Creevy and Roger Clay in memory of Roux, pet cat of Mrs. Michael Crago

A donation was received from Emily Roberson in Honor of Helen Hester and Ahulani Anela Roberson-Toya

A donation was received from Dan and Jane Burstain in honor of VPP member Jen Burstain
A donation was received from J ohanna and Raymond Habisreitinger in honor of Fay and Bill Schultz

Donations were received from Barbara Hyland and Lee Gaffney in memory of Guiness, per of Judy Haber Stone

A donation was received from Lee Gaffney in memory of Joyce Kleinfeldt

 Quick Links