National Volunteer Week – Meet Monica, Fiona and Ruby

18/May/2021     Mater Group

National Volunteer Week (NVW) is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteers. From Monday 17th to Sunday 23rd May 2021, NVW will celebrate the significant contribution of Australia’s almost six million volunteers who selflessly dedicate over 600 million hours to help others each year.

Today we meet volunteers Monica and Fiona the amazing women who are the handlers of Pet Therapy Dog, Ruby at Mater Hospital South Brisbane who share how they became involved in pet therapy, what goes on behind the scenes and why they keep coming back.

“Ruby is a rescue dog who was six months old when I found her, I have had her for ten years’ and she has been doing pet therapy for eight years’ at Mater. She had such a calm and soothing temperament that I thought she would be perfect for pet therapy,” Fiona said.

“When we came to Mater, she had to have an interview which she slept through, so they knew she would be a very calm dog and would be perfect for the position. They did tests with her dropping things and trying to startle her to see how she performed under pressure, naturally she passed with flying colours.

“While at Mater I take her up to Level 9 of the public hospital, this is typically where the older patients are and there are quite a few long stay patients on the ward as well. The patients really respond well to her and it’s a nice way to add something special to their day.”

Monica who assists Fiona in taking Ruby around the hospital says that while Ruby is the star of the show, they both also play a special role in the patient visits.

“We liaise with the nursing staff to see which patients would benefits from a pet therapy visit, then we have a chat with them before we bring her in to ensure they are comfortable with a dog coming to see them,” Monica said.

“Normally the patient will strike up a conversation, asking questions about Ruby but we obviously have to answer. We keep the conversation flowing and talk to the patient about whatever they feel comfortable talking about. We can see what having Ruby visit means to some people, it’s something they look forward to each week.

“We have had several patients who were previously non-verbal begin talking when she entered the room. The doctors were standing at the doorway in disbelief saying this is the most they have spoken in the whole stay. Ruby can easily win people over and she seems to know when people need some extra attention.”

In the eight years Ruby has been doing pet therapy at Mater, Monica and Fiona have been a team, working together, they both have a real love of dogs and find the work incredibly rewarding.

“It’s so wonderful to see how happy she can make the patients, even when we walk through the hallways on our way to the ward people stop for a pat or a cuddle. Once she gets home she has to have a big sleep, but she’s always ready for next week,” Fiona said.

To find out more about volunteering at Mater you can call 07 3163 8599, email or visit for more information.

Public relations contacts

07 3163 6142