Meet Miso, the therapy dog who lives on Chapel Street with her long-time Sandy Hill family: Eric, Caroline, Elie, and Maël.
Miso, one of the many Labradoodles that were rescued during a crackdown on a puppy mill in Quebec that saved 600 dogs, was adopted from Friendly Giant Dog Rescue. Though she was originally named Ginger, the family wanted to give her a name that would reflect their love of Japanese culture (Eric and Caroline taught English together in Japan for several years), and would also maintain the food and colour theme. And so, Miso the puppy became the pet-sibling of Sushi the goldfish.
Although now technically a senior at over nine years of age, Miso is still in excellent health and eager to please all humans (dogs, however, not so much with the exception of her friend May on Goulburn Avenue). It was this obvious love of humans coupled with her submissive nature that led someone to suggest to Eric that his puppy would make a good therapy dog. And so, after two years of training, Miso and Eric passed Ottawa Therapy Dogs’ test to become an officially certified therapy team.
Until the pandemic shut down all in-person volunteering, Miso and Eric had a busy schedule. They regularly visited Centre de Transition Communautaire (CTC) where they worked with adults with developmental disabilities. “That was the really rewarding [work],” says Eric. While some individuals were immediately excited to spend time with Miso, others were fearful of dogs initially. Over time they began to interact and eventually felt comfortable enough to walk the dog alongside Eric.
Miso’s other job was a natural fit for Eric, who is a University of Ottawa professor. The university offers its students and staff a monthly pet therapy program (“zoothérapie” en français). Eric tells me that there would always be a long line-up of students, many who missed their family pets back home, and others who were fearful but wanted to meet a friendly dog to help them get over their trepidation. Regardless of their reason for coming, Miso would happily lie on the floor, belly-up, and let these youth, sometimes up to 12 at a time, get some puppy therapy.
Even off duty, Miso provides joy to Sandy Hillers of all ages, especially the school children who see her every morning on her way to her university office. “All the kids [at Francojeunesse] know her, they get excited when she goes by. By end of school year everyone knows Miso,” says Eric.
Now that just about everyone is at home and school is online, Miso spends her days mostly sleeping by her partner’s side. Although Eric is Miso’s “main human,” like most of our furry companions these days, she is enjoying having all of her people around: “It will be a transition [for her] to not have her pack around all the time,” says Eric.
Thankfully for Miso, she will have many other humans happy to rub her belly and again see her wagging tail.
with notes from Eric Crighton