June 14, 2018 1:29 pm
Updated: June 14, 2018 2:06 pm

Therapy dogs soothing patients at the Montreal Neurological Institute

WATCH ABOVE: Milo has been working hard at the Montreal Neurological Institute, visiting patients to help them in their recovery. Global's Rachel Lau meets the seven-and-a-half-month-old French bulldog bringing smiles to people's faces.

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Milo has been working hard at the Montreal Neurological Institute for the past few weeks, visiting patients to help them in their recovery.

By the way, did we mention Milo is a dog?

The seven-and-a-half-month-old French bulldog is part of the Neuro’s dog therapy program.

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“The experience of walking in the room with your animal and seeing the looks on people’s faces and the feeling that comes from it has been amazing,” Milo’s owner, Christopher Shee, told Global News.

“It’s been a great experience. We’ve been really excited to keep going with it and give more positive vibes.”

Though the program is relatively new at the Neuro, it’s been around for about 20 years within the MUHC, first starting in the palliative care unit.

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Shee first heard about the program from his girlfriend, who has been part of the Montreal General Hospital’s dog therapy program with Milo for the last six months.

“I think he’s doing really well. Every Thursday, when we get out of the car he knows where he is and I think he’s excited about coming and visiting,” he said.

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One of the patients Milo visits is Oleh Popovych, who is recovering from surgery for a brain tumour.

“Dogs are very nice animals,” Popovych told Global News.

“It’s a positive effect, it’s very nice, calm and pleasant.”

He was diagnosed in 2010 with glioblastoma, one of the most aggressive cancers that begins within the brain, often starting with headaches, personality change, nausea and symptoms similar to a stroke.

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This last visit to the Neuro comprised of his third and fourth surgical procedures.

Popovych said he’s only met Milo twice so far, but he hopes to spend more time with the dog.

How are the therapy dogs picked?

There are currently 27 dogs taking part in the therapy program across the MUHC’s network of hospital — four at the Neuro alone, with one more expected to start soon.

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Volunteer who are interested in taking part in the dog therapy program are interviewed before the start.

“They have to be willing volunteer in the hospital and comfortable volunteering in the hospital with their dogs,” said Margrit Meyer, the volunteer who spearheaded the program.

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The dogs will then undergo an hour-long dog evaluation test.

“It exposes the dogs to different situations in the hospital,” Meyer told Global News.

“There are some dogs that are really friendly and wonderful dogs, but they can’t handle the smell, the people touching them, the sounds in the hospital.”

Shee admitted the experience doesn’t just benefit the patients — it also brings something more to his life.

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“It’s been a huge eye-opener for me and makes me feel like I’m making a difference in the community. There’s been no negative feedback at all, it’s all been positive,” he said.

“The stories of the patients, as well as their fight, it makes you appreciate everything more and want to help more.”

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

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