Cancer Information Helpline Call 0800 226 237 | Email an Information nurse | Fundraising & Donor Care Helpline Call 0800 467 345

The tail of a new volunteer

One of the Cancer Society’s most recently recruited volunteers is rewarded with pats and belly scratches.

Charlie, a five-year-old bichon shih tzu and official St John Therapy Pet, has begun weekly visits to the Canterbury Cancer Centre in Christchurch.

Charlie’s owner, Denise Grant, says Charlie has been a huge hit with guests at the centre who miss their furry friends while they are away from home undergoing treatment.

“I noticed the other week we were hanging around in the lounge and I had five people around me and then they got talking and sharing pictures of their dogs – it got them talking and out of their rooms.”

Denise moved up to Christchurch a year ago from Gore with her husband for his job. She says she looked for something to do where she wouldn’t have to leave Charlie at home as he had accompanied her to work since he was a pup. She had started the process of getting Charlie his therapy pet credentials, when a neighbour suggested she volunteer at the new Cancer Society facility in Papanui.

Denise began volunteering as a host at the Canterbury Cancer Centre and suggested to staff that they might like to consider getting on board with the Therapy Pet programme.

“I thought it would be so good for people who’ve had to leave their dogs behind to come in for weeks of treatment.”

Everything aligned splendidly with the Cancer Society applying for a four-legged visitor and Charlie getting his official bandanna, so Denise and Charlie were matched and now visit weekly on Thursdays for an hour.  Charlie and Denise also have a regular Friday appointment at a local retirement village.

This National Volunteer Week, the Cancer Society wants to thank all it’s amazing volunteers – both the two-legged and the four-legged ones, who give their time and energy to make a difference in the lives of those impacted by cancer. If you’re keen to find out more about how you can get involved in volunteering with the Cancer Society head to If you want to find out more about the St John Therapy pets programme head to: