National Volunteer’s Week: Sheryn & Striker

June 17th, 2024

Striking a special connection

Mary Potter Hospice is supported by an amazing team of over 500 volunteers and some are fluffier than others – like Striker.

Striker’s Friday morning starts with a bath, blow dry, brush and toothbrush. The final touch is putting on his uniform – a red bandana – a signal for him that it’s time to help.

Striker, a 10-year-old Golden Retriever and his owner Sheryn, volunteer for Canine Friends Pet Therapy – a New Zealand-wide network of people who share their friendly, well-behaved dogs with patients in hospitals or hospices and residents in rest homes.

For the past seven years, Striker and Sheryn have been visiting the Hospice’s Inpatient Unit in Newtown and are sometimes assisted by younger pup Vinnie. Together this dream team provides animal-assisted therapy for the emotional wellbeing of Hospice patients, visitors and staff.

During their visits the duo visit people who want a cuddle or happy distraction during a tough time.

Sheryn describes Striker as an ‘old soul’. “He has such a big heart and is extremely empathetic. He’s so perceptive of people’s emotions. He’s like a sponge, and to this day this quality of his never ceases to amaze me,” says Sheryn.

Hospice staff also say the same about Sheryn, noting her natural ability to connect with people and make them feel comfortable.

Sheryn has witnessed many touching moments over the years, but one she recalls vividly was from the pair’s first few visits.

“There was a man who moments earlier had lost a loved one. Striker was walking down the hallway towards the man – all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It wasn’t until Striker got near that he noticed that the man was upset. His tail instantly stopped wagging and he lay calmly at the man’s feet.

“The man fell to the floor and embraced Striker in this deep moment of grief, and Striker would have let the man hold him for as long as he needed. A few moments later the man got up, and Striker looked at the man, tail wagging again, as if to say – you are going to be OK.”

For Sheryn, it’s moments like these that make volunteering such a wonderful thing to do. With her family living overseas, she finds great solace in being able to help other families who are going through a tough time.

And for Striker, “Well if he could speak, I’m sure he’d say he loves volunteering for all the pats, treats, and the big walk he gets after his visit!”

Thank you to our amazing volunteers who work with our patients, families and whānau, keep our shops operating and support our staff behind the scenes. Your time, skills, experience, fundraising and passion supports Mary Potter Hospice to offer our valuable services free of charge.

If you are interested in volunteering for Mary Potter Hospice, we’d love to hear from you! View our current volunteer vacancies here, or email with your enquiry.