HALIFAX — He loves yoga, squeaky toys and long romps in the woods.
But the newest employee at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax has a special place in his heart for kids.
Dorado, a three-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, provides comfort and support to children suspected of suffering from neglect or physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
Kathy Bourgeois, Dorado’s primary handler and a social worker at the hospital’s SeaStar Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, says the dog has a calming effect on children, youth and families and reduces anxiety and trauma.
Dorado, which means golden in Spanish, is the first accredited facility dog in Atlantic Canada and one of 29 dogs across the country supporting trauma victims.
Bourgeois says he’s a hybrid between a therapy dog, providing affection and comfort, and a service dog with access to institutions and public facilities such as transit, hospitals and court rooms.
She says Dorado rides the bus with her in the morning and works regular hours. But at the end of the day, when she takes his service vest off, Bourgeois says “he’s just a dog.”
“In our yard or at an off-leash park you can see he’s very fast and he loves to jump and play and run through the forest,” she says, adding that he stretches with her when she does yoga.
But Dorado must follow a strict diet that only allows him to eat kibble, his secondary handler, Angela Arra-Robar, says.
“He doesn’t get cheese, dog treats or milk bones,” says the clinical nurse specialist. “He’s got a very specific diet that we have to follow and we have to keep his weight in a certain range.”
While children quickly understand his dietary restrictions, Arra-Robar says adults sometimes need reminders that he’s not allowed any treats.
– Follow Dorado on Instagram @seastardorado