by Rhonda Massad
Three years ago, mental health worker, Samantha Molino had a dream to have a therapy dog to help in her work at the Centre Bienvenue in Pierrefonds. Her dream has come true and Norbert, the Golden Retriever is a permanent fixture at the Centre.
“Basically the idea of having a therapy dog at Centre Bienvenue started about 3 years ago when I was first hired,” Molino explained. “Being an animal lover, I had studied Animal Assisted Therapy projects and programs in University. I never dreamt I would have the opportunity to create a program within the West Island.”
Determination and hard work combined with the right team and management, the idea of having a “Norbert” became a reality.
“Norbert was born on October 15th, 2016 and came home to us on December 10th at 8 weeks old,” she said. “He started his first day of work the next day. Norbert has grown up in the community center at Centre Bienvenue, attending work with me 5 to 6 days a week, including some weekends and evenings.”
Being a non-profit organization, several of the road bumps to achieve this project were financial.
“We were blessed with the generosity of the West Island Community,” Molino said. “We were given a Community Grant from Walmart Kirkland to purchase Norbert (that covered his fee). We were additionally given free obedience training from Sandra Dahan from Dahan Canine Education Center in Pincourt. Many citizens additionally donated items such as a dog crate, monetary donations, and toys for Norbert.
“Although our organization was created to help adults who struggle with mental health issues, we are open to anyone in the community seeking support and guidance. Norbert especially.”
Norbert has visited several schools including St-Thomas High School, John Abbott College, and Place Cartier. He additionally visits Macdonald High School in Saint-Anne de Bellevue on a regular basis. Norbert occasionally visits the West Island Crisis Center and some of the tenants at the Omega Apartments in Dorval. Norbert`s main job is to provide comfort, support, and love to all he encounters. His cuteness naturally reduces anxiety, stress, lower`s blood pressure and creates a sense of comfort and reassurance to those in need.
As an extra bonus, he makes everyone he meets smile!
You can follow Norbert on his Facebook Page here