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The University of Montreal and of the world

The University of Montreal and of commitment to the Mira Foundation

Dr. Marie-Claude Bélanger

For Dr. Marie-Claude Bélanger, a cardiologist at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the commitment of the Université de Montréal’s CHUV to the Mira Foundation has special significance in her practice.

Mira dogs aren’t just pets, she explains. They’re also service animals. They provide physical and psychological support to people on a continuous basis. “We should always be aware of the attachment that owners have for their animals, but, when it’s a two-part situation that includes service and support, the vet has an additional responsibility.”

This was the case when the mother of Rafaël, a young boy with autism, brought in his dog Amaé, who had a heart defect. By calming him, Amaé had changed Rafaël’s life and, by extension, his family’s, too.

The stakes were high and the pressure was intense. On the day of the operation, Marie-Claude Bélanger had butterflies in her stomach, despite the fact that she had performed many others. “We could not make a mistake,” she says. The operation was a success. Today, Amaé is preparing to join Rafaël as he begins high school.

According to Dr. Bélanger, who is active and dedicated, the practice of veterinary medicine is more than just a series of skills like clinical judgment or memorization. It’s also essential to demonstrate compassion and a real ability to listen.

You have to learn to manage both the animal’s pain and the owner’s distress. “I often say to my students, ‘Don’t forget that, when you enter a consultation room, you have two hearts to care for: the sick heart and the broken heart,’” explains the woman who has been fascinated since childhood by “the great mystery of animals, patients who cannot say what’s ailing them.”

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