Lizzie Dele Shih Tzu Mix August 2023
Lucy Golden Retriever 12 years, 4 months,30 days
Alex Greyhound May 1, 2023
Sadie Greyhound December 9, 2021
Nash Rhodesian Ridgeback December 4, 2021
Buddy German Shepherd September 22, 2021
Parker Whippet June 29, 2020
Guinness Border Collie Mix November 10, 2019
Forrest Greyhound May 1, 2016
Tabitha Poodle April 30, 2016
Chance Golden Retriever December 13, 2014
Rocky Golden Retriever November 1, 2002
Molly Gaffneyhound 2004
Oban Boxer August 18, 2011
TBoy Greyhound May 4, 2010
Kansas Greyhound March 14, 2006

My heart broke on March 14th, 2006 the day my greyhound girl "Kansas" crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Anyone who knows me is aware of how much I loved her. Her companionship helped me get through my breast cancer treatment. When I was fatigued she would lie close to me & keep watch. When I needed to be cheered up she would entertain me with her toys and insist that I pet her. Which always made me feel better. I am very proud of Kansas’s involvement with the Visiting Pet Program. I’m so appreciative that she had the chance to cheer up the elderly in nursing homes and help the kids at Reading to Rover. These are very special memories.

Losing her was so painful, but I remain grateful that she was in my life for 7 years. As every other pet lover knows, our animals will be with us for a short time. The love and companionship Kansas gave to me during these years more than makes up for the loss I felt when she died. I know that Kansas is at peace and running with the other greyhounds in doggy heaven. I will cherish my memories of our time together and know the pain will lessen over time.

- Claire Sommers

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When I first brought TBoy into my home he was supposed to be a foster. I spent months nursing this dog back to health. When the day came to hand him over to his adopter, I couldn’t do it. She was just not good enough for him. TBoy deserved better. He did get adopted that me.

TBoy was my leaning greyhound. He loved nothing more than to lean on anyone and everyone. I always got the feeling TBoy really wanted to be a lap dog. At 80 lbs he was just a ltittle too big for laps, and leaning was the next best thing. His leaning always reminded me of being hugged.

I am very proud of TBoy’s participation with the Visiting Pet Program. He made so many friends at the Covenant Home. TBoy would get so excited as we drove into the Covenant Home parking lot he would try to push the car doors open.

It was heartbreaking to lose him, but I was lucky to have him in my life. He taught me a lot. I take comfort in knowing that TBoy is pain free in doggy heaven. I will cherish my memories of our time together and know the pain will lessen over time.

TBoy joined the VPP in 2006

- Claire Sommers


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In my life: GroundDog Day 2003 – August 18, 2011.

Oban received his AKC Therapy Dog Certificate dated August 10, 2011.

Oban was my first dog – not counting family or group owned pets. I went to Boxer Rescue and while I looked at a few – I knew Oban was the one. Who could resist those ears! We took Obedience at LASPCA; Lee Gaffney met us in an obedience/agility class. She said he would be perfect for VPP – and thus we planned to start the process in 9/2005. However, starting January 2007 Oban was a regular visitor at the John Hainkel Home and RTR at Eastbank, Broad St, and STAIR. His signature visit was a few pats and then a flop on the floor. He was comfortable anywhere! He loved RTR. He got to roll on the carpet; lie down and toot and listen to the kids. Kids could do anything to him – he was a natural. He wasn’t perfect – he hated the postman with an abnormal passion; unneutered male dogs, other boxers (until he got to know them), English bulldogs, and Boston Terriers. He guarded fields but would let anyone in the house- especially when I wasn’t there. If I was there – he would not leave without me – not even for a walk with a trusted friend. He was the epitome of cool. He was a regular at several pubs in town; the first Finn McCool’s Kickball Dog; the official mascot of the Finns FC Football Club (soccer); the unofficial mascot of the New Orleans Celtic FC Fan Club and had many friends – 4 legged and 2 legged in the neighborhood. For his last 18 months he had a constant boxer companion in Islay – someone to carry on his VPP legacy. One day his ablutions stopped – after 6 days of ICU at the vet, all sorts of tests, and a trip to the LSU Vet School –Oban said his final goodbyes. Who knew a human body could have a capacity for so many tears. Below is Oban’s final facebook post – he had 50+ comments. I hope to live by his example.

“Final Big Licks to you all! I am off to that big field where I can eternally chase cats, sic dogs with balls, roll around in the grass, run in the sand, wade in the water, and snuggle. Thanks for all your pawsitive thoughts- love y'all. Take care of my punk sister Islay, she's not as cool as me. I am donating my body to science and facebook page to my person.”

- Joy Sturtevant

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Molly Gaffney...1987-2004
Active volunteer with the Visiting Pet Program 1991-2002

She was my first therapy dog, and an accidental one at that. She ultimately proved to be the consummate professional, a role model for other therapy dogs. Please enjoy her story and know that she is smiling down on all the VPP pets that followed her.

Click here for Molly's story.

- Lee Gaffney


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Rocky Dolese...November 1, 2002

Rocky enjoyed his monthly convalescent home visits but loved to visit with special needs children. In 2002 I was asked to visit with Rocky during the summer with children at the Sensory Intervention camp of the ARC. We worked with an occupational therapist and young children with Down syndrome and autism. Rocky worked out so well we were asked to come back during the regular sessions with the children. It was amazing how Rocky brought out emotions in these children. One of the fathers noticed so much advancement is his son he brought his son a Golden Retriever.

He participated in special summers camps in St. Bernard Parish for special needs children and young adults. We also did a career day explaining how dogs are used in a pet therapy program to teach sensory intervention and how psychologists use these types of animals when working with children and adults that have been bitten by dogs.

Rocky visited Maison Hospitale convalescent is the French Quarter until he passed away. The picture includes one of his regular VPP visiting partners, Max a Doberman Pincher. These two huge dogs would get into this small elevator to move around the facility. Being such large breeds, the residents just loved them.

- Jill Dolese


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Chance Dolese...December 13, 2014

Chance was rescued in 2002 and became a VPP therapy team member in 2003. God called him to heaven on December 13, 2014. It was time for him to go take care of the residents from the nursing home facilities that he visited until he was retired in 2010. They are going to be glad to see him. Chance was a gift from God making everyone smile that he was with. He loved working with special needs children with enjoying all of the hugs and petting he received from them.

Chance fulfilled my life for the past 12 years. He helped me get through Hurricane Katrina and the stroke I had 4 years ago.

Rest in peace my sweet and beloved Chance.

- Jill Dolese


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It is with deep regrets and broken heart that I share that my precious little Tabitha whom God blessed me with almost 13 years ago had to be put to rest this morning, April 30, 2016. Tabitha never met anyone or anything she didn't love. She was so happy all the time; tail always wagging. Even when receiving shots at the vets office her tail never stopped wagging. She loved going to visit the nursing homes, hospitals, rehabs, school, and my church, but she loved Ochsner the most with all the people gathering around her; she felt the love. I think she strutted herself up and down the halls as if she owned the place. Everyone knew her as the "praying dog." I saw so many miracles happen because of her presence. It makes me think of all of the service animals, and all of the many miracles that they have, and will provide. Tabitha touched so many lives every day of her life. I know God placed her and I together for the mission work with the Visiting Pet Program. It was a very rewarding time for both of us. Rest in peace my sweet Tabitha, you will always live in our hearts.

- Rose Marhay


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Forrest started his life as a racing Greyhound, named Ugo Spiral Fire. He was racing at the track in Mobile and while he enjoyed racing, he really wasn’t very good at it. In November 2006, my friend Maria his racing owner, called and asked if I could pick him up at the track. So I drove over to Mobile and he doesn’t want to leave the track. The trainer “Fuzzy” and I hoist him into my car and I bring him back to New Orleans. I renamed him Forrest Gump and that name really fit him. His personality was a lot like the Forrest Gump movie character. He could RUN and “life was like a box of dog treats”.

Forrest Loved everyone he met. Including his vet, Matt Jacocks. Forrest loved his trips to the vet. And when we ran into Matt at the dog park Forrest would run up to greet him and run circles around him and Roooooo. Rooooing is a thing some Greyhounds do. Kind of like a howl, only better. But that’s just my opinion.

Forrest joined the VPP in December 2007. He loved his nursing home visits and attending Reading to Rover. One little boy at RtR always referred to Forrest as a “drag race dog”. I retired Forrest from the VPP in 2014. He had been diagnosed with lumbosacral stenosis and that causes weakness in the back legs. Physically he just couldn’t tolerate an hour long visit.

Forrest maintained his visiting pet persona during our trips to the dog park. He stopped and visited with anyone who would pay attention to him. Forrest has alot of good friends at the Rainbow Bridge. And he is running pain free with them. I will cherish my memories of our time together and know the pain will lessen over time.

- Claire Sommers

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I never thought that my October visit to Chateau Notre Dame would be Guinness’s last visit. Guinness past over the Rainbow Bridge on Sunday 11/10/2019. Guinness has been with VPP since 2011 and has enjoyed visits at Hainkel Nursing Home and Chateau Notre Dame. He will be missed.

- Judy Haber-Stone

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Parker wasn't a licker, but he loved giving nose bumps.

So typically I am writing Rainbow Bridge announcements for other members pets. But today it is for one of my own. I helped my whippet “Parker” cross the Rainbow Bridge today. Our final loving act as pet owners.

Many thanks to Dr Jacocks at Hickory Knoll Vet for providing such compassionate end of life care. Parker was originally diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in 2017, I treated him twice. The cancer returned again this year and I made the decision to not treat him again.

Parker joined the VPP in 2011 and retired in 2019, following his 2nd cancer recurrence. Parker thoroughly enjoyed his visits at St Margaret’s and Reading to Rover events.

He will be missed so very very much.

- Claire Sommers

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I can’t quite find the words to express our heartbreak at the loss of Buddy, our beautiful German Shepherd Dog. Buddy came into our lives eight years ago at seven weeks of age, and he never left my side. His registered name was Doctors’ Best Medicine von Edelguard, and he lived up to it in every sense.

He was a true shepherd, a “Velcro dog,” and guardian to our family. He was a big presence, with a big bark, and an even bigger heart. As a shepherd, he needed a job. That motivation lead us to VPP in the fall of 2016. We had just started working in pet-assisted therapy at EJGH in December 2019. Buddy loved the patients and staff, especially the pretty young nurses. He missed his work after March 2020.

Hurricane Ida was devastating on many levels, and Buddy’s first experience with evacuation. I used the VPP go bag to pack Buddy’s things. He did not enjoy the hours long trek to Houston, and showed signs of stress. I found a vet there, started medication, and had a plan to support Buddy through trek back home. Three weeks later, still not back in our house, he suffered a surgical emergency of Gastric Dilatation Volvulus and Splenectomy. (Cypress Lake Animal Hospital in Prairieville was just 10 minutes from my son’s house in Gonzales, and they gave great care.) He had a second trip to surgery for gastric bleeding two days later. We had hope of recovery, but on Wednesday, September 22nd with more complications, we loved him as the vet helped him cross the Rainbow Bridge.

The tears flow as I write this. I am missing that big, velvety eared face nuzzling my face when a moment of grief hits. Through all of the losses since the pandemic started, he’d come to me within a minute of emotion, and nuzzle me, as if to say “it’s okay. I’m here.” Buddy was the best medicine, curing a broken heart more than once. I will be forever grateful for his love and gifts. He was more than a dog - he was a once in a lifetime blessing.

- Carol LaNasa

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I have heart breaking news. Nash (Nashville), our handsome Rhodesian Ridgeback, crossed the Rainbow Bridge December 4, 2021. Nash was a rock star at Chateau Living Center where he brought joy into the lives of his many adoring fans. His calm demeanor and striking appearance was admired by residents and staff alike. Eyes would light up when he walked into a room and looked around as if to say, "no autographs, please."

Saturday the hard decision was made not to make him endure a second tumor-removal operation.

He was stoic until the end and will always be remembered as a loving and unforgettable member of our family who will be sadly missed.

Thank you for letting us be part of such a wonderful program.

- Word Backstrom

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Sadly I had to help my oldest Greyhound Sadie cross the Rainbow Bridge on December 9, 2021. She has been dealing with lumbosacral stenosis which causes weakness in the back end/legs. This is a degenerative disease resulting in increasing discomfort and diminished mobility. Then recently she started having brief episodes of right front leg paralysis.

Sadie joined the VPP in 2014 and was regular at St Margaret's.

The last loving and most difficult act as a pet owner, helping them cross the Rainbow Bridge.

Sadie's racing name was Flying Silly. This photo always makes me think of her racing name.

- Claire Sommers

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"Our dear Greyhound Alex peacefully crossed the Rainbow Bridge this morning after a recent diagnosis of large cell lymphoma.

He lived thirteen plus wonderful years. When we brought Alex home about ten years ago he was a handful but in a nice way. I learned more about Greyhounds from Alex than the other five combined. We were so fortunate to have Alex a part of our life and will cherish many, many happy memories."

Alex joined the VPP in 2014 and retired in 2021. Alex was a regular Chateau Living Center and then St. Anthony's Nursing Home visits. Barbara and Alex also visited at Delgado for presentations to the Occupational Therapy Assistants on the benefits of pet therapy. As well as yearly presentations at the LA/SPCA Care Cadet Program. In addition Alex and Barbara participated in the EJGH Pet Assisted Therapy Program.

- Barbara Hyland

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12 years, 4 months,30 days. The amount of time that I was blessed with you as my fur baby, will be the most treasured time spent of my life. You were an angel on Earth, and I was lucky enough to have you as mine. You provided over 500 service hours by bringing joy and normalcy to children in the hospital, alleviating s tress for employees and travelers at the airport, encouraging kids to gain confidence to read to you, comforting college students during exam week and convention attendees, educating adults and children roles of therapy dogs, and evaluating other dogs to join you at your job. You also spent your final 9 years accompanying me at my office assisting treatment sessions by helping me and the other OTs make instrumental gains in our patients’ progress. At the same time, being a much needed office stress reliever for our Kim4Kids team and families of our patients. You comforted me through some of my hardest and darkest days of my life. You were also my therapy dog during these times, who wouldn’t leave my side a single night and leave me alone.

You gave your stamp of approval of Lilly Rose. A sweet angel puppy whose timing was God’s plan and needed saving. You knew. You knew you only had a few weeks left. You knew she needed me, but I needed her more. I can’t wait to see her carry on your legacy, which is monumental. I am so grateful for my time with you, but endlessly graceful I was able to share your magic with thousands of other lives. I will love you forever my sweet Lucy.

- Kim Bradley

My sweet Lizzie Dele passed away this morning. She'd been declining, greatly, the past month and went into congestion heart failure this morning. I was able to take her to the Shelter, where she was surrounded by close friends who loved her very much.

She thoroughly enjoyed her time at Children's, before her retirement last fall. Lizzie Dele joined the VPP in 2013 and was a regular at Children's Hospital visits until her retirement in the fall of 2022. Lizzie Dele will be missed by all who met her.

- Lori Haeuser

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