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Occupation: Four Legged Therapist By: Sydney Moreau

Three hours a day, seven days a week, this is a dog with an important job. Rufus is a Saint Bernard with a heart far larger than him; he works as a therapy dog to help teenagers who struggle with depression and anxiety at the Centre Ado du Millennium. “Something about hugging him just makes a person feel better,” says his caretaker, Doreen.

Teenagers gathered around the table, glancing left and right for Rufus to arrive. In the distance a humongous Saint Bernard came walking down the gym, causing smiles to creep up on the teens faces. “He’s so cute!” squeals one teen.

Doreen lead Rufus to the table and spread out his blanket- he obediently laid down straight away. “He’s a little tired from all the attention but he just loves it,” she says. Rufus never made so much as a peep, due to his training as a therapy dog.

Doreen first got into the therapy dog business with her first therapy dog named Brutus, who was also a Saint Bernard. Brutus was a dog that Doreen fostered and immediately there was a bond between them. Brutus was such a well behaved dog who brought smiles to peoples faces that Doreen felt she needed to share that happiness with others.

His job as a therapy dog is to listen with open ears and to provide hugs for those in need of them. “When you pet him, you end up forgetting about exams or any stress, anxiety, depression that you have and end up thinking ‘he’s cute’,” says Doreen. Rufus tires easily so his job lasts about three hours per day, unlike his predecessor Brutus who could keep going for the whole day.

In today’s society, depression is a major issue however, it wasn’t always recognised in previous years. When Doreen was a teenager, people simply thought she was a sad kid, when that wasn’t the case. Back then people didn’t understand what depression was and for a majority of her life, Doreen felt alone because she didn’t have someone to talk to or lean on. Doreen explained depression as having a shadow of a baseball cap over your eyes all the time.

“When I got my first dog, I saw light! For the first time in as long as I can remember, I saw light, that darkness wasn’t there.”