Sophie, Barney & Maddie

“Sophie is now retired but was the inaugural dog used in the pet therapy program.”

 Sophie & Hayley friends

Name: Sue Armston with Sophie, Barney & Maddie

Type of dog: Newfoundland; Sharpei

Location: New South Wales

Visits: Children’s hospital; Children’s therapy

Volunteering: 5 years

Why: I had always wanted to be involved in this type of work as I have a veterinary and medical background and love working with my dogs.  For me it combines all my interests mixed with a desire to reach out to people and help in some way.

I lost a very special Newfoundland in 2003 and Sophie pined for him.  I decided at that stage to work with her and get her accreditation to be a Pet Partner, the rest as they say is history!

As well as ward visiting, Sophie and Barney are both involved in the Pet Assisted Therapy programme at The Children’s Hospital where they work one on one with children needing physiotherapy for a range of conditions.  Sophie is now retired but was the inaugural dog used in the programme.  She worked with a little girl called Hayley who suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta which is commonly known as Brittle Bones Disease.

Maddie started off at an acute care hospital and from November 2008 has been on the team at a Children’s hospital visiting the wards.

Enjoys most: I enjoy working one on one with my dog (I have several!) and I love to see the kid’s smiles when they can pat and touch the dogs which brings some brightness and something different to their hospital stay.

Dog enjoys:  My dogs enjoy having me to themselves and they love being patted and admired!  Wherever we go they stop and expect to be patted now!

Reaction: The staff, parents and kids all love to see the dogs.  The Newfoundlands obviously get a lot of attention due to their size and the fact that they look like bears!

Experiences: When Sophie first started working with Hayley it was amazing to watch the bond develop between them.  Hayley’s mum, Sharon, told us that Hayley would call out Sophie’s name in her sleep! The physio sessions became less traumatic for Hayley with Sophie there and in time she was able to stand and walk with her furfriend. It was amazing to be privileged to be a part of that journey.

I was visiting Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick with Barney one week.  As we walked past one room as the little boy was asleep the nurse came to the door and asked if we’d mind taking Barney in for a moment.  The little boy wasn’t actually asleep just unresponsive and had been that way for some time.  The nurse wanted to just run the little boys hand along Barney’s fur to give some tactile stimulation.  When we did that an amazing thing happened, that little boys face spread into a smile – we were all in tears and for me if ever anything proved the value of dogs as therapy that was it.

As a Delta Pet Partner I am privileged to be able to share my dogs with people and be a small part of their journey in hospital.  I have made some good friends which I share this with.

Sophie & Hayley

Delta Society Australiais proud of all our Therapy Dogs. If you and your dog would like to become a Pet Partner visiting team, please read here.

Delta rely on donations and bequests to keep our important therapy programs going. If you would like to donate to Delta, please visit donations and bequests.

Visit the Delta website.

See more Delta Dogs.


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