Queen's birthday honours for Dr Harry

Dr Harry Cooper OAM. Photo by Susan Sheeran

Dr Harry Cooper OAM. Photo by Susan Sheeran

FOR the past 35 years Dr Harry Cooper has graced our television screens advocating love, respect and a sense of responsibility not only for domestic animals but also wildlife.

His service to veterinary science and animal welfare, and as an author and presenter, was recognised on Monday when he was announced as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours List, receiving the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the General Division.

A resident of the Manning Valley for the past few years, the beloved television presenter said it was wonderful to just be nominated.

"I feel very honoured to be an Australian and I feel very humble to receive this award."

He spent the weekend at the Australian Kelpie Muster in Casterton, Victoria (the home of the kelpie), filming segments for Better Homes and Gardens and on the day of the announcement was travelling home.

Dr Harry's love of animals began at a young age.

His father had started out in veterinary science (when it was an apprenticeship, not a degree) but withdrew after 12 months.

A young Harry and his brother Neil followed in their father's footsteps and both went on to become veterinary scientists.

"It was really our father's unfulfilled dream.

"I knew I wanted to be a vet from when I was 12 or 14."

Harry grew up surrounded by animals and watching his parents breed and show a variety of animals.

With the assistance of his father, he began showing budgerigars and poultry, which he still does today (in addition to horses).

Dr Harry was a veterinarian at the Gladesville Veterinary Hospital between 1971 and 1987.

His foray into television began eight or nine years into his career when Channel Seven had phoned the veterinary hospital to ask his partner if he could appear on their morning show.

After declining, he suggested Dr Harry, who accepted and went on to appear on breakfast television for two years.

"It was the beginning for me... I said yes and gave it a go."

After a brief hiatus he was called up to be a presenter on Burke's Backyard on the Nine Network, a role which he held between 1987 and 1993.

He made the move to Channel 7 to be a presenter on Talk to the Animals between 1993 and 1997 before presenting his program, Harry's Practice, between 1997 and 2003.

Since 2004 he has been a presenter on Better Homes and Gardens and regularly travels across Australia for work.

He's met many people during the scope of his career but there are some etched firmly into his memory.

"We did a story about some veterans coming back from Afghanistan. The guys were traumatised from their experiences and to help them in their recovery they were each given a dog."

Each dog was selected based on the veteran's personality.

"Dogs sense how people are feeling. We give out signals and smells that people can't sense but dogs can."

He said an important part of their recovery was that the veteran's could talk to the dogs and they wouldn't be judgemental.

"The way animals help people can be physical and mental. It's quite amazing."

Dr Harry is an advocate for children growing up with animals and said it is a scientific fact that children who grow up with animals have higher self confidence, can mix with people well and are far higher achievers.

"It is also a known fact that patting a dog can help reduce your blood pressure by 10 per cent.

"I can't understand people not wanting a pet."

Reptiles, birds, fish, cats and dogs are all good pets and, for children, he said the best first pet can be a guinea pig.

"They are small, cuddly and ideal".

The aim of his career has been to "teach the children well".

He remembers when he was working on the program, Talk to the Animals, he was asked by an interviewer about his aim.

At that stage he didn't have an answer for that and it motivated him to work out in his own mind what he wanted so if he was asked again he would have a clear answer.

"If I leave any legacy behind, that will be it.

"It's a wonderful thing when people come up holding their children's hand and say my kids watch you and I watched you when I was their age."

In addition to his television work, Dr Harry has authored four books, Dr Harry Cooper's Pet Care Guide in 1991, Anecdotes and Antidotes in 2000, Remedies and Memories in 2001 and Stethoscopes and Calving Ropes in 2002.

He is also an ongoing financial contributor to the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Charles Sturt University.

His work has been recognised previously with a Centenary Medal in 2001, a Service Award from the Australian Veterinarian Association in 2006 and an Alumni Award from the Veterinary Faculty at the University of Sydney.

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