Volunteers' Voice News for and about the Visiting Pet Program
February 2011 Volume 10, Issue 4

Our sincere thanks to all the volunteers and evaluation team for another successful evaluation. Our efforts benefited us with 14 new dogs and 1 cat. 13 new volunteers have entered the probationary phase of our program. All the volunteers did a wonderful job throughout the long day.

On Saturday, January 15th trainer Pam Bellone held our New Pet/Handler Workshop. Fay Schultz with Mozart and Jerry Gibel with Tancuj served as our workshop demo teams. Our new volunteers left the workshop more confident and much more prepared to start their visiting careers. Thanks to all who attended the Recertification Workshop and assisted the new volunteers and pets.

Thanks in advance to all the volunteers who have graciously offered to mentor the newcomers. Your skills and instruction are greatly needed, and you will be helping the new volunteers and pets begin their visits on a good start. Your willingness to share your knowledge with our newest volunteers is deeply appreciated.

Claire Sommers
Program Coordinator

Quick Links
Visit Schedule for Spring 2011

To Claire to schedule your visits

To the web site
Visiting Pet Program web site

In this issue


    When I took the reins as president in August, 2010, I looked forward to helping our organization move forward over the next few years. Recently, however, I have been battling a spinal defect which has required me to spend a good deal of time in physical therapy. As a result, I have had to make the difficult decision to resign from the board and scale back some of my VPP activities.

    The work of the VPP board and its membership is vital to the patients we serve, and it's important that the organization have a president who can put in the time necessary to ensure its success and continued growth. I will continue to remain as involved as possible in VPP activities as I work through my rehab regimen.

    I would like to thank all of you for your commitment and dedication to brightening the lives of those we serve, and I would like to especially thank the board, along with Barbara Hyland, Rebecca Breaud and Marcia Legendre for their support and for all the behind-the-scenes work they do to ensure that VPP remains a high quality, successful program.

    Finally, an extra special thank you to Lee Gaffney, who has graciously agreed to once again take the reins as President effective April 1, 2011. Everyone who knows Lee knows that she always gives 110%. I know she will do a great job as always, and will enjoy the support and encouragement of the VPP membership.

    Patty Spampneto


    It's that time of year again!!!

    The VPP Volunteer Appreciation Day Picnic and Award ceremony will be held Sunday, April 3rd, 2011 from 1pm-3pm. Please come on out and join the fun at the Soniat Playground in Harahan. A map to Soniat Playground at 6601 10th Street, Harahan, LA 70123 is linked below.

    All human VPP volunteers, certified and probationary, and their family, kids and guests are invited. VPP dogs that have completed certification are invited to attend. Unfortunately, we cannot invite dogs that are not certified through our program. Dogs that are still in the probationary phase Are Not allowed to attend. All dogs must remain on leash throughout the entire event and, just like on visits, only one dog per handler.

    As always, flexi-leashes are not permitted.

    Certified volunteers are asked to wear their green VPP shirts.

    The VPP will provide sandwiches, snacks and soft drinks. Bring the kids and your own chairs or a blanket to sit on and enjoy an afternoon of fun. We will have access to two covered shelters and a great play gym for the kids. Please confirm your attendance (note how many guests will attend) by email to paws4visits@gmail.com To be sure there is enough food for everyone, we need an accurate head count no later than March 27th, 2011.

    We look forward to seeing everyone!

    Map to Soniat Playground


    Lynne Aranda with Splash, the Doberman. Lynne is an Avon Representative and involved with Doberman Rescue. She also enjoys arts and crafts. Splash is an active pet. She has received a Certificate of Merit from Victims & Citizens Against Crime Organization as well as the CGC Canine Good Citizen Award.

    Harry Cole with Monkey, the Mixed Breed.
    Harry designs and builds car washes. His main interests are family and home. Monkey loves going to the dog park and socializing with the neighbor's pet.

    Sheliah DiJohn with Boe Anthony, the Shih Tzu.
    Sheliah is a health resource teacher for JPPSS. She is active in the community, especially groups involving education and the environment. Boe Anthony loves people and enjoys being held.

    Susie Edgecomb with Amos, the Hound Dog.
    Susie is a part-time dental hygienist and also a STAIR volunteer. Amos interacts well with other dogs and has participated in obedience training.

    Patricia Egers with Maggie, the Mixed Breed.
    Patricia recently retired from Charity School of Nursing at Delgado as Dean of Nursing. She also has witnessed the positive effects of pet therapy in nursing homes. Maggie loves her daily walks and visits to the dog park.

    Suzette Hubbell with Chloe, the Standard Poodle.
    Suzette is a surgical technician. She loves the outdoors, whether involving pets or gardening. Chloe has had obedience training and loves to go to the park and farmers market.

    Julia Hugel with Bandit, the DSH Cat.
    Julia is a nurse anesthetist at EJGH. She is also involved with New Orleans Medical Mission Services. Bandit has travelled extensively and loves people.

    Beth Joubert with Nachi, the Labrador Retriever.
    Beth is a youth minister and enjoys being with family, young people and working at retreats. Nachi loves to be petted and around people of all ages.

    Erin & Michael Kopaigorodsky and Cuy, the Weimaraner.
    Erin works at Save the Children and loves to travel. Michael is an Environmental Health & Safety Specialist at Tulane. He enjoys music and plays the guitar. Cuy has taken obedience class, is very calm and loves to interact with people.

    Emily Martinez with Boomer, the Labrador/Terrier Mix.
    Emily works with the New Orleans Crime Lab Firearms Unit but also is involved in floral design at a westbank flower shop. Boomer loves people, whether greeting them in the flower shop or doing tricks for them.

    Pam Merrick-Riviere and Reuben, the English Springer Spaniel.
    Pam loves animals and as an on-call registered nurse with hospice, realizes the important of pet therapy with patients. Reuben loves people and enjoys trips to the dog park.

    Tatjana Pavlovic with Heidi, the German Shepherd.
    Tatjana teaches cinema and languages at Tulane. She is also involved with German Shepherd Rescue. Heidi is affectionate and loves people as well as walks in the park.

    Andra Ponson with Bacchus, the Golden Retriever.
    Andra is a veterinarian at CAH and enjoys outdoor activities, currently training for a marathon. Bacchus loves being with people, whether tailgating, parades or going to the office with Andra.


    Kim Carlson with George, the Greyhound.
    Kim is an occupational therapist at Ochsner and loves her involvement with Greyhounds. George is very friendly and enjoys being petted.

    Gayle Kroeger with Thuy, the Burmese Cat.
    Gayle is semi-retired from her catering business and loves to travel, often including her pets. Gayle will be the handler for Thuy, already in the VPP. Thuy is very sweet and enjoys visiting patients.

    Claire Sommers with Parker, the Whippet.
    Claire is a clinical associate with the LSU Neurology/Epilepsy Clinic. Claire is a past president of VPP and continues to be deeply involved in our program. Parker loves people and being petted. He enjoys socializing at pet stores and the dog park.

    Joy Sturtevant with Islay, the Boxer.
    Joy is a professor in microbiology at LSUHSC. She is active in STAIR and the VPP's Reading to Rover. Islay is friendly and calm and loves to be petted.


    Donations were received from
    Laura Williams
    Lee Gaffney and Claire Sommers
    in memory of
    Denise and Chet Mehurin's Sheltie

    Donations were received from
    Pam Bellone
    Tamra and Michael Carboni
    Fay Schultz, Laura Williams
    Denise Mehurin, Helen Schneidau
    Diane Smith
    Claire Sommers
    in memory of
    Lee and Tom Gaffney's dog

    Donations were received from
    Lee Gaffney and Claire Sommers
    in memory of
    Ellen Goldring's dog
    Lucy Jane

    Donations were received from
    Pam Bellone, Linda Bordelon
    Cathy Burch, Lee Gaffney
    Barbara and Dick Hyland
    Denise Mehurin, Fay Schultz
    Helen Schneidau
    Diane Smith, and Claire Sommers
    in memory of
    Barbara Hyland's Greyhound

    Johanna and Hap Habisreitinger made a donation in honor of Fay and Bill Schultz's dogs JJ, Mozart, and Betty Boop for their time and efforts with the Visiting Pet Program.

    Lee Gaffney made a donation in honor of Marcia Legendre.

    A donation was received from Martha Myers,
    Director of New Orleans Oral School.

    A donation was received from Aetna Foundation, Inc. Partners in Community Giving on behalf of volunteer Barbara Hyland.

    Chris Ward made a donation in honor of Linda Wegmann's devotion to the Visiting Pet Program.

    Laura Williams made a donation in honor of Denise Mehurin's pet Daisy.

    A donation was received from Mina L.Crais in honor of Cotton who has come to live with Jack Ricks.

    The Canine Connection made a donation from proceeds at their No Fleas Market.

    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 24 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 5831 S. Johnson Street, New Orleans, LA 70125. 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

    Take Note!


    VPP Volunteer Appreciation Day
    Mark your calendar now and plan to bring the whole family
    to the VPP picnic.
    Sunday, April 3rd
    Soniat Playground

    New Volunteer Orientation
    Saturday, June 18, 2011 10am-12noon
    Sunday, July 17, 2011
    Saturday, October 22, 2011
    Harahan Senior Center
    100 Elodie
    Pre-registration required
    Contact Claire Sommers to register at
    paws4visits@gmail.com or

    Reading 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

    On the West Bank
    Held on the second Sunday of each month
    2751 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey
    from 2:00pm-3:00pm

    Events are now being planned in conjuction with the STAIR program. Please contact Fay for upcoming times and locations

    Contact Fay Schultz
    to confirm your slot at any of these
    Reading To Rover


    Barbara Hyland, New Volunteer Program Coordinator, would like to thank members of the Buddy Program as well as several volunteers for assisting with the September'10 evaluation group. Buddy volunteers included Claire Sommers, Jerry Gibel, Diane Smith, Patty Spampneto, Pam Bellone, Rebecca Breaud, Lee Gaffney, Dawn Hagmann, Harold Putfark, Fay Schultz, Joy Sturtevant, Nancy Feild, Ellen Goldring, Malay Hajra, Tobi Provenzano, Laura Williams, Connie Back, Cathy Burch, Brenda Chetta, Linda Ferguson, Lori Haeuser, Gayle Kroeger, Joyce Lashley, Dot McIntyre and Greg West.

    The following volunteers assisted with observation visits: Kim Barrett, Brenda Becnel, Kathleen Caulkins, Leigh Crawford, Patricia Fox, Frances Hecker, Meri Krepps, Terry Miller, Geriann Mitchell and Sterling & Maggie Millet.

    Our thanks to all who helped to welcome our new volunteers.


    Lee and Tom Gaffney helped their beloved Scruffy cross the Rainbow Bridge. Scruffy was with the Visiting Pet Program for 11 years and all who knew him would agree how special he was. Scruffy was a true original and will be greatly missed. Please keep the Gaffneys and Scruffy in your thoughts and prayers.

    VPP member Ellen Goldring's beloved Lucy Jane crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Ellen and Lucy Jane joined the VPP in 2001 and were regular visitors at Lambeth House. Lucy Jane recently retired from her visiting duties at the age of 17 years old. Lucy Jane touched many people's hearts and will be missed by all who met her.

    Barbara Hyland sent word that her wonderful greyhound Penny crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Penny's death was very unexpected. Penny was 8 years old and joined the VPP in 2006. Penny was a regular visitor at St Anthony's. Barbara and Penny also visited with the East Jefferson Pet Assisted Therapy Program.
    In Barbara's words, Penny really came into her own when she became certified by the VPP. To me she was an ambassador for our program. At least 5 presentations at Delgado and so many for the Care Cadets at the LA/SPCA. I think you know how much the VPP means to me. One of the nicest things that has ever happened in my life. I know it was in Penny's. She certainly put a smile in everyone's face. Can't ask for more than that.

    We are very appreciative of all the joy Scruffy, Lucy Jane and Penny brought to the residents they visited.

    The love and joy these pets brought into the lives of the hospital and nursing home residents will not be forgotten.


    VPP member Waynette Normanrecently retired her pet Lulu from service to the community. Waynette and Lulu were regular visitors at Ponchartrain Health Care.

    Our sincere thanks goes to Waynette Norman and Lulu for bringing love and leaving smile.

    Quick Links...

    Visiting Pet Program Web site

    Monthly Schedules for Spring 2011

    Help VPP by shopping through IGive

    Shop for great therapy dog books at Dogwise

    phone: 504-866-2532 Fax: 504-866-9823