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He’s the playful pup lighting the faces of residents, staff, and volunteers alike at the Elizabeth East Residential Aged Care home – but Ernie’s impact goes beyond a simple smile.

The four-year-old border terrier of AnglicareSA volunteer Christine, Ernie is a fully-trained obedience dog and regular visitor to Elizabeth East forming lasting connections with those he meets along the way, with some, including resident Graham, taking a particular shine to the four-legged friend.

A man wearing an akubra cuddles a brown and black dog.
Graham gives Ernie a cuddle.

Christine has been volunteering with AnglicareSA for 11 years, first coming on board with her border terrier Leo after hearing about volunteering opportunities through the Million Paws Walk.

“It was just great satisfaction to see the smile on people’s faces,” Christine says. “Leo was such a big part of my life that I wanted to share that with everybody – just to show how wonderful he was.”

When Christine sadly lost Leo in 2018, his passing was also felt by the residents, staff, and volunteers of Elizabeth East.

“It took me a little while to get another dog but then when I got Ernie I brought him in when he was just a pup, just to get him used to the surrounds, the smells and sounds and things like that.

“When he turned 12 months of age, I could bring him in here under the current handling scheme.”

The value of pet therapy is that the contact encourages communication, socialisation, and independent movement for the immobile and memory stimulation.”

Trained through the Caring Canine’s Association, Ernie brings a positive influence to all those he greets with a wag, a sniff, and what you could be forgiven for thinking was a smile.

“The value of pet therapy is that the contact encourages communication, socialisation, and independent movement for the immobile and memory stimulation.

“Having Ernie visit also helps with hypertension and anxiety and provides companionship for the lonely.

A brown and black dog looks at the camera.

“Ernie brings back fond memories of their own dog, striking up a conversation and in general brightening up their day.”

The connection between human and animal is no more evident than in Elizabeth East resident Graham, a former farmer and obvious dog lover, who shares a close bond with Ernie.

“He’s my mate who comes to see me,” Graham beams as Ernie launches himself on to his lap. “He’s my little buddy.”

At AnglicareSA, we’re proud to have around 300 volunteers who give their time to support people in need. Volunteers are an integral part of our support services — their generosity and commitment enable us to deliver a broad range of services to the South Australian community.

You can Register Your Interest online by clicking here, or alternatively view our current volunteer opportunities here.