Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Labrador Retriever Supports Children Suspected of Suffering from Abuse, Neglect

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Labrador Retriever Supports Children Suspected of Suffering from Abuse, Neglect

Article excerpt

Dorado the dog supports children in hospital

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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 Labrador retriever, provides comfort and support to children suspected of suffering from neglect or physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

The American lab wears a blue vest with the words "assistance dog" in bright yellow letters, and even has his own hospital identification badge.

Kathy Bourgeois, Dorado's primary handler and a social worker at the children's hospital's SeaStar Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, said the dog has a calming effect on children, youth and families and reduces anxiety and trauma.

"Kids are at higher risk of being traumatized because they have less choice about what is going on in their environment," she said Friday. "Dorado helps them not feel as overwhelmed."

Unresolved trauma can lead to mental and physical health issues, addictions and poor socio-economic outcomes, Bourgeois said. Eliminating that trauma can put kids "on a trajectory for better life outcomes," she said.

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.

The yellow lab is 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, Bourgeois said.

Dorado rides the bus to work in the morning and holds down regular hours. But at the end of the day, when his service vest comes off, Bourgeois said "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 said, adding that he stretches with her when she does yoga. …

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