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Isaac the therapy dog turning 10 after hundreds of visits to kids at CHEO and Ronald McDonald House


Isaac the yellow lab is about to turn 10 years old and has dedicated most of his life to bringing joy to children at Ronald McDonald House (RMH) and CHEO, making an immeasurable difference when it's needed most.

For Brayden Sauvé, treatment days at the children's hospital are both physically and emotionally taxing. He lives in Hawkesbury, Ont., but for the last seven months, he and his family have called Ronald McDonald House home.

"The house means quite a lot to us," says Brayden's father, Jay. "It's like a big family and Isaac is a big part for me and Brayden."

RMH is dedicated to providing a warm, safe, affordable and compassionate environment for families of seriously ill children. Isaac has been a beacon of hope for many, including Tayla Coleman, a teenager who also finds comfort with Isaac.

"Issac loves cuddles," she says. "I have a puppy but she's all the way home."

Julie Jolicoeur, Isaac's owner, brings him to these children to offer them moments of pure joy.

"I just have to bring him here and he does all the magic. He has the ability to just kind of meet people exactly where they are," says Jolicoeur. "I'm a retired paramedic, retired with PTSD, and was looking for a way to give back to my community."

Jolicoeur initially raised Isaac to be a guide dog, but his gentle nature proved better suited for therapy work.

Since then, and for the past seven years, Julie and Isaac have been working with Ottawa Therapy Dogs, coming to Ronald McDonald House and CHEO. The two have made nearly 700 visits, touching the lives of thousands along the way.

"You want to see your kids experience joy and magic and when you're on the CHEO campus that's not always the case," says Stephanie Poff, with RMH. "But for a moment in time, when you come here and Isaac is here, you can pause all that."

Jolicoeur says this journey with Isaac to provide others with a sense of healing has done the same for her.

"It's the most sacred of honours to be invited into somebody's journey back to health," she says. "Next to having my own two kids, this has been my life's best work, hands down."

In a fitting tribute to his years of service, Isaac will celebrate his 10th birthday, this Sunday, at CHEO's Teddy Bears' Picnic. Top Stories

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