Amber O'Neill and her beloved dog Brandi have been regular guests at one of Wagga's disability homes for almost two years.
Ms O'Neill, a fifth-year veterinary science student at Wagga CSU, and Brandi, a three-year-old Border Collie, volunteer with LiveBetter's companion animal program.
"[They] just had an advertisement up looking for people that wanted to volunteer so I put my hand up and said I'd love to have a go," Ms O'Neill said.
"Since then we've been visiting a disability home in Wagga. We were just about to start at an aged care facility but with the whole coronavirus thing we haven't been able to do that lately."
Ms O'Neill said volunteering with Brandi was "super rewarding".
"Over time they start to get to know us and get to know Brandi," she said.
"People we were visiting before were nonvocal as well. So it was pretty rewarding to see them smile and to hear from their families as well that we were sort of making a difference."
Ms O'Neill said the connection between animals and humans could be therapeutic.
"I don't know what it is but I think animals always just make things better. You can talk to them all day and they're going to listen to you," she said.
"Just the connection, when we go and visit people, as soon as Brandi arrives they go up and cuddle her and take her for a walk.
"Dogs are so caring and accepting of everyone."
Ms O'Neill has been making videos of herself and Brandi during the coronavirus-induced hiatus from her usual face-to-face visits,
"It's been something a bit different. It's been fun. Definitely not used to videoing myself but they seem to have enjoyed it," she said.
IN OTHER NEWS:
She said she had her fingers crossed that life would soon return to normal.
"I think especially once everything opens again after COVID-19 it's going to be even more rewarding, going to those homes and seeing people's reactions," she said.
"They've been in lockdown and isolated, especially with the aged care facilities, from seeing other animals and probably a lot of people as well.
"So I think it will be exciting to be able to go back in and bring some sort of happiness and comfort to them hopefully."
The companion animal program currently has 20 volunteers and their pets across the Riverina-Murray region.
LiveBetter program coordinator Jodie Hayes said the visits could make someone's day.
"Aged care residents love it when a pet comes into their facility. Some of those residents have moved in and weren't able to take their own pets with them," she said.
"So, to see a pet come through is absolutely priceless. It makes their day. I've turned up with a volunteer to induct them in the program, and one resident just burst into tears when she saw the animal come through the door."
The animal visitor scheme sits within the Community Visitors' Scheme, which is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and targets the elderly and people with a disability.
Ms Hayes said pet owners should think about signing up for the program when visitors are again welcome to aged care homes and other facilities.
"The breed and type of pet doesn't matter - over the 40 years the scheme has run, they've had dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, rabbits, birds and a turtle," she said.
Volunteers would need to commit to one or two hours per week, after waiting a couple of weeks to fill out the required paperwork and complete an induction, which includes a pet screening process.
Anyone interested in more information on how to volunteer can contact Jodie at LiveBetter on 1800 580 580 or 0439 303 134.